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 an experience that's hard to explain, but once you've seen what Wreaths Across America does and you get involved you'll want to stay involved every year. It's so moving."
That's according to Danny Smith who is an over-the-road driver for Big G Express out of Shelbyville, Tennesse. He's been with the company since it started in 1995 and two years ago celebrated his 3-Million Accident-Free Safe Miles with BIG G. In 2015, Danny was named the TCA Driver of the Year, and he also served as a member of the ATA's America's Road Team from 2015-2016.
His first introduction to Wreaths Across America was in 2015 when he traveled to Columbia Falls, Maine to pick up a truckload of remembrance wreaths and transported them to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2016, he transported wreaths from a cross dock in Mississippi an delivered to cemeteries in Middle Tennessee.
"We were on our own coming back, but several of us met up at a truck stop up in Maryland. A lot of people knew what was going on and we had decals and images on our trucks and trailers. It was so moving coming down I95 because people were waving flags, honking their horns, giving us thumbs up, and saluting us."
That experience the Friday before National Wreaths Across America Day was touching enough but when wreath day arrived the next day Danny experienced the "power of the wreath."
"I was one of about 63 trucks filled with wreaths that were staged in Arlington that year," Danny recalls. "It was one of the most moving and humbling experiences I've ever had as a truck driver. To see the thousands of people showing up to lay wreaths and within an hour and a half, the whole cemetery was covered with wreaths. It was simply amazing."
Danny says he never served in the U.S. Armed Forces, but he makes a connection, as so many drivers do, between military service and a trucking career.
"It's a rough life. You have to be disciplined, and you're away from your family for days at a time," Danny explains. "Trucking is a good fit for people coming out of the military. We do everything we can to honor our veterans at Big G Express."
While Danny was not part of the Annual Wreath Escort from Maine to Arlington last year, he was still able to experience the patriotism and pride associated with being a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet.
Stephen Richardson is a dedicated driver for BIG G Express and hauls barrels for the Jack Daniels Distillery. When Stephen was looking for employment, a friend of his at Big G told him about the company, and he's been a part of the family for 17 years. From 1986-1991 Stephen served in the U.S. Army with most of his time served spent in Germany.
"My military career gave me a great start in the trucking industry," Stephen proudly states. "My MOS was ammunition supply, and we would deliver ammo out in the field all times of the day and night."
A military veteran and member of the Tennessee Trucking Association through Big G Express Stephen was the first driver for Big G to transport America's respect in 2014.
"As a military veteran, it was powerful to learn about the history and evolution of Wreaths Across America and it was overwhelming to know I was serving other veterans by being involved."
Stephen shares his most memorable moment from being at Arlington for the first time, which he says, taught him new lessons about dignity and respect.
"There was a limousine that pulled up in front of the gate on Memorial Drive and I could see the brass. An older gentleman in uniform was struggling to get out of the car and stand. Two younger men went over to assist him. His dignity wouldn't allow that and he told them that he was going to walk through that gate because the next time he would be carried. He was an old General there to honor those who came before him. That will stay with me for the rest of my life."
Stephen and Danny both speak with pride about the involvement of Big G Express in Wreaths Across America's mission to remember, honor, and teach
Thank you, Danny, Stephen and the entire Big G Express family for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can hear more from Danny and Stephen 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.
Terry says veterans make up about 18 percent of the Berkshire Hathaway company's workforce. Wreaths Across America gives them the opportunity to recognize veterans across the country but most importantly says Terry to honor their employees who served.
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.