Wreaths Across America's Trucking Tributes Presents Tyson Foods

The ten, fresh balsam-fir bouquets, with a circular shape and single red bow, have come to symbolize the nation’s respect for our fallen. The citizen-sponsored veteran’s wreath honors the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served our country.

These Maine-made wreaths need to travel from a small town in Downeast, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery every December, and over two thousand other participating cemeteries across the country, and overseas. It all started with one truck. Today, donations from trucking companies, their drivers, associations, and industry supporters are the backbone of the mission to remember, honor, and teach.

Trucking Tributes is a regular feature on Wreaths Across America Radio where you can hear full-length interviews from the drivers, and their company CEO’s, about what motivates them to serve the mission. You’ll also hear from members of the Wreaths Across America staff and core volunteers who work diligently throughout the year to facilitate the transportation logistics required to meet the demand of National Wreaths Across America Day as it grows.

This Trucking Tributes focuses on the global pandemic brought on by COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, and how our transportation industry is on the front lines of this pandemic, supplying our nation with critical food, water, medicine, fuel, and other life-saving products. Tyson Foods is a global company feeding America, while at the same time trying to adapt operations and respond to the health and wellbeing of their employees. “From the farm to the table, there’s a whole lot of love happening right now,” shares Deanna Wiedner, VP of Human Resources at Tyson. “We want our drivers to know they’re loved.”

The goal of Tyson’s overall enterprise is to raise the world’s expectations of how much good food can do. “In this time of crisis, our drivers, our production workers, our folks on the front lines are showing their true being,” Deanna says. “To give you an idea, normally we transfer about 19-thousand loads a week, and we’ve seen about a 10 to 20 percent increase in our load movements, restocking the shelves.”  Tyson has about 1,350 active drivers in their fleet, according to Deanna. “There are about 720 long-haul drivers that could be out for weeks at a time. We have 362 regional drivers who get home approximately once a week, and we have about 163 local drivers who get to be home every night, and then we have route salesmen who deliver directly to restaurants and the foodservice industry.” With the dramatic shutdowns of businesses across the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyson Foods, and others are adjusting to an almost overnight shift in the way they do business. “It’s not just the trucking side of the business either. I just heard a statistic the other day that 18-million people are fed on one day’s production at one of our beef facilities.”

While Tyson’s Human Resources department is busy making sure their critical employees stay physically healthy, their Chaplain, Karen Diefendorf, looks after their mental and spiritual health. Karen served with distinction as a Chaplain with the U.S. Army, and she started to get more involved with Wreaths Across America with her Tyson family. “We have a phrase we’re fond of saying, and that’s life comes with you when you come through the door. You can’t keep it in the parking lot, and that can be a huge distraction, which would be dangerous.” Karen explains the crisis is just as hard for the Chaplains who are also on the front lines with the production workers and drivers. “It’s hard to be that non-anxious presence when they may be anxious as their team members, but their training and their professionalism kicks in.”

Wreaths Across America is incredibly grateful for the unyielding support it receives every year from the Tyson Foods family, and so proud of their efforts as part of our nation’s critical infrastructure during these challenging times we face as a nation.

You can hear the full interview with Deanna and Karen on Trucking Tributes head on Tuesdays at 11:00 AM, and again at 4:00 PM EST exclusively on Wreaths Across America Radio.