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 goes without saying professional drivers spend a lot of time on the road and that offers them an opportunity to tune into radio programs. When a story about Wreaths Across America came on the Dave Nemo Show, Mike Dengel was listening and inspired to serve by volunteering for the mission to remember, honor and teach. He immediately reached out to his wife Barbara and said, "I heard about this program honoring veterans, and we need more information about it."
Mike is the owner/operator of 4D's Trucking Inc. out of Reddick, Florida and it's not the first time he's served the nation.
"Well I'm a veteran," Mike explains. "My father was a 31-year veteran of the Air Force, my oldest brother is a veteran and my wife's dad and brother are Navy veterans. Her uncle Coye was in the Army during Vietnam and one of her cousins is a twenty-six year Marine who was in Iraq when we got involved with Wreaths Across America. We have military connections in our families dating back to at least World War II."
Mike has been arranging his schedule for the past five years so he can make it to Maine with his fifty-three-foot reefer to transport close to six hundred boxes of fresh wreaths to honor military veterans buried in Sarasota National Cemetery. His son Michael holds a CDL (commercial driving license) too and has gotten involved in the Wreaths Across America mission supplying a few other participating cemeteries in Florida.
Mike and Barbara are proud and patriotic Americans who understand the great personal sacrifices of our military families. They have also witnessed the powerful impact one fresh balsam fir wreath with a red bow has on the living. Mike gets choked up when he recalls one particular example.
"The first year we got involved delivering wreaths to Sarasota National Cemetery we met a lady named Lois and her husband who was in a wheelchair and on oxygen. We got to know a little more about them and his service each year. Last year, Lois approached me alone and said, 'He's here now. I want to thank you, and he thanks you, and now I get to place a wreath on his headstone, and we're so grateful for what you do.'
Mike says the first year he and Barbara volunteered the wreath delivery and ceremony was basic but more and more people are catching on and want to do what they can to support the event on national Wreaths Across America Day.
"We stop at a rest area at mile marker 240 on I-75," Mike explains of their escort. "The Patriot Guard Riders and everyone they reach out to show up, and last year I lost track after two-hundred or more motorcycles showed up to accompany the two trucks to the cemetery."
"Mike even called the Governor's office last year to get a notice on the overhead highway signs that light up alerting motorists about the convoy," Barbara added.
This video shot in 2013 and shared with us shows the escort into the cemetery, and every year since the event has grown.
The whole family gets involved according to Mike
"People love to have their picture taken with our Great Dane Angel."
Mike and many of our other rolling ambassadors who are military veterans speak of a military brotherhood that may be hard for some civilians who have never served to understand fully. It's a commitment to one another that makes the remember and honor objectives of the Wreaths Across America mission so important.
"Hopefully the teach part of the mission will strike a chord in some of the younger generation," says Mike. "When they see all these people across the country coming out to remember and honor military veterans for their service."
Thank you, Mike and Barbara Dengel for your patriotism and tireless support of Wreaths Across America. You can hear more from Mike and Barbara in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio weekdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.