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 special stories will introduce you to the men and women of the industry who make the mission possible.
"I see the effort with Wreaths Across America as just one way to give a little something back to our military and their families," expresses Shepard Dunn, President, and CEO of Bestway Express of Vincennes, Indiana who has been volunteering for Wreaths Across America for six years.
Shepard originally learned of Wreaths Across America through his friendships with industry icons Barry Pottle and the late Bob Baylor. He got better acquainted with the mission to remember, honor, and teach through the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and his leadership involvement with the Truckload Carrier Association (TCA). Not only has Shepard invested his time he's shared the experience and lessons of respect and community service with his family.
"I told my wife we've got to do this; it's good stuff," recalls Shepard after his first visit alone to witness Arlington National Cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day. "Each year I've taken one of my three children, and it was a great experience for them. They got to see what giving is with this organization. We just got more and more involved as the years went on."
Last year, Shepard and his wife shuttled Gold Star families in the annual wreath Escort to Arlington.
"Wow, what a trip! What a fabulous trip! It was grueling and difficult with a lot of folks getting sick with colds or flu, but it was great people doing amazing things, and we were so happy to be a part of it," Shepard reminisces.
Shepard, Steven Meyer, and Don Queeney have all independently expressed during interviews deep pride in their company's service and commitment to remembering our nation's fallen heroes and honoring their families.
"We [Bestway Express] began hauling wreaths five or six years ago from Maine down to Virginia, not as part of the Escort but as one of the trucks staged inside the cemetery," explains Shepard. "The operations team always pick among our employees who are veterans to take the load into Arlington, and we typically have to take these gentlemen off the road for about two weeks. We're based out of Indiana and don't run East, much less to Maine, so we'll broker a load out to Boston and then deadhead them (no revenue) to Columbia Falls, Maine to pick up the wreaths. They're proud to be involved, all the company employees like it, and hopefully Bestway will stay involved for a long time to come."
Shepard goes on to explain why he believes so strongly in his volunteer commitment and his eagerness to engage more people to sponsor remembrance wreaths and get involved in their communities.
"It makes these drivers feel good about themselves, it makes them feel good about their companies, it makes them feel good about their country and being Americans. They're so proud and when you've got all those things working in the same direction that's a win-win for everybody. I don't know if that was the original vision of Morrill and Karen's [Worcester], but I promise you that's real and it touches a lot of lives. Good stuff."
Thank you, Shepard Dunn and Bestway Express for your patriotism and tireless support of Wreaths Across America.
You can hear more from Shepard and other patriots in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio weekdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.
*Editor's note: At the time of Shepard's interview for this story he was the CEO of Bestway Express. Shepard's starting a new position with CFI in Joplin, Missouri.