Wreaths Across America receives no government funding to support operations. Motivated and dedicated patriots across the country and at locations overseas power the Maine-based nonprofit organization. The mission to remember, honor, and teach is carried out daily by millions of citizens who care deeply for those who have served our nation in the armed forces, and their families. Some of these remarkable individuals are veterans themselves or come from military families while others are driven by a deep sense of patriotism and community service.
Placing fresh, hand-made balsam remembrance wreaths on the headstones of veterans across the country in December requires tremendous logistics and unyielding support from the trucking industry.
Wreaths Across America shows its gratitude and appreciation for all those involved in transporting America's respect with "Trucking Tributes." These stories will introduce you to the men and women of the industry who make the mission possible.
It's a wonderful feeling when Wreaths Across America can create memorable moments for the companies and volunteers who support the mission. With hundreds of trucking companies and close to 1,300 participating locations involved, it's not always easy to accommodate special requests, but when we can, we appreciate the excitement and enthusiasm it generates.
Take Dart Transit Company out of Minneapolis, Minnesota as an example. Dart employees and professional drivers have been supporting Wreaths Across America for eight years and have increased their level of support every year. Last year as members of our Honor Fleet, Dart transported five truckloads of America's respect to participating locations and this year it will be seven or eight.
"I've been begging Wreaths Across America for the opportunity to deliver a truckload of wreaths to Fort Snelling National Cemetery," explains Kristin Ries, Communications Manager for Dart. "My grandfather is buried there, and I know that there are a lot of people who work here who have family buried there as well."
Kristin's grandfather, Arnold (Arnie) Mueller served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War as a cook, and the family recently found some of his recipes and donated them to Fort Snelling's history collection.
It just so happens that this year a Dart Transit truck and driver will be delivering a truckload of wreaths to Fort Snelling.
Driver Pat Wortham is an independent contractor for Dart Transit and a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet. He also has a rich history of military service in his family.
"My grandfather Frank Schwan was a World War II Marine vet wounded twice," Pat shares. "He actually lied on his application about his age when he was 16 years-old and got caught in boot camp and sent home. His mother signed off on it, and he went back to the Marines and served four years. I've got 14 years with the National Guard, and my brother Doug Wortham is full-time with the National Guard. We both served together ten months in Iraq in 2009-2010. It was kind of nice to be on deployment and have family serving there with you."
A few years ago, Dart had an application process for drivers to lease their special edition military tribute trucks and Pat was selected. When Kristin reached out and said they needed trucks for Wreaths Across America, Pat said he'd do anything to support his fallen brothers and sisters in arms.
"This Wreaths Across America thing is excellent," Pat exclaimed. "It's really a humbling experience to pull into a national cemetery and have two or three hundred people waiting there to unload and place these wreaths on the graves of our fallen veterans. At a time when turmoil and animosity seem so strong in our country, it's good to see people come together and let these families know we haven't forgotten about their brother, or mother, sister or husband. It's so important especially during the holidays."
Pat's story as a member of the honor fleet is remarkable, and it's a testament to the commitment and dedication of our volunteers.
There was a logistical challenge with a load of wreaths and Pat was assigned to reach Mandan North Dakota. On his trek, he encountered a snow storm and an ice storm and had to communicate the load of wreaths would not make it in time for National Wreath Day, so they all managed to regroup the next day for their ceremony and wreath-laying.
"It was below zero that day, and these people didn't seem to care," Pat described. "They were there for a purpose and they got it done and made it happen. I was amazed. My hats off to them."
Pat further expressed what the opportunity to haul a truckload of America's respect meant to him.
"I think the load of wreaths is probably the most important load I have ever hauled in twenty years because of what it means to all the people on the other end. It's important to all the volunteers who have worked so hard to have the wreaths for our fallen veterans. It's very humbling, and I don't know how anyone would not be brought to tears to see the families and what this means to them."
Thank you, Kristin, Pat and the Dart Transit team for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can hear more from Kristin, Pat and our other patriots in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern Monday-Friday.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.
Wreaths Across America knows some of the finest musicians out there are members of our military performance groups. Each month, we like to feature the musical works of those talented individuals.