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.
"When you hear of a parent whose lost a son or daughter protecting our country there's no greater gift than to remember that person with the laying of a wreath. It's the mission and stories that you hear that make it so easy to be involved with Wreaths Across America."
Debbie Sparks is the Vice President of Development for the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and says that gift of remembrance and support for Gold Star families is the most compelling reason she and the truckload members volunteer for Wreaths Across America. The other is the trucking industry's ability to efficiently transport commodities as part of their normal scope of business.
"It's the way the trucking industry works," Debbie explains. "When your customer needs you to go from Point A to Point B and you get to Point B, you pick up another load. When we give the motor carriers enough time to arrange it, they can deliver a load to the northeastern part of the country and then run up to Maine to pick up wreaths as their backhaul."
Debbie learned of Wreaths Across America through Barry Pottle of Pottle's Transportation, who now serves on the Board of Directors of Wreaths Across America. In 2012, Debbie invited Barry to speak to TCA membership about the mission to remember, honor, and teach. The partnership has been growing and evolving ever since.
"When Barry made that first plea I want to say we had eleven trucks at Arlington National Cemetery and this past year, for the third year in a row we hit our maximum of sixty-five trucks. When we started, there were about six hundred cemeteries across the country, and this year we were close to twelve hundred."
As more volunteers step up to the plate across this great nation to remember our fallen heroes and support military families through Wreaths Across America, the more intricate the logistics become. Considering the short window of time from when the fresh hand-made balsam fir remembrance wreaths are made in Maine to the time their sponsored and placed on the headstones across the country on National Wreaths Across America day in December, it's a massive effort.
While it's often difficult to get people to sponsor their remembrance wreaths earlier in the year, Debbie explains that would be extremely helpful because with this process timing is everything.
"There are three facilities in Columbia Falls, Maine where trucks can load up with wreaths," explains Debbie of the dispatching responsibilities. "We have to make sure we're not sending all the trucks to the loading docks at the same time. There are three major cross-docks in Washington Park, IL, Kansas City, MO, and Richland, MS, and they fill up warehouses where additional carriers come in and pick up to deliver to the west coast and the south. All those truck loads go out first and then we have to get the convoy trucks ready to roll. The Friday before National Wreaths Across America Day trucks are staged in Arlington National Cemetery.
As Wreaths Across America continues to grow the trucking and logistics expertise needed to get the job done expand as well.
"We're always conscientious about the carbon footprint we leave so we have to be sure the process is safe, efficient, and compliant with federal regulations," Debbie explains. "We want to make sure it's fuel efficient and a good run, that we've got the truck full, that a rested driver is ready to go, and all that plays into the coordination effort."
Debbie says it's motivating to see the can-do attitude and camaraderie of the trucking industry whether it comes from associations like TCA, or companies like Tyson Foods, or moving and storage companies helping to coordinate the "final mile" like Arpin they are all willing to volunteer time, equipment, and expertise to the Wreaths Across America mission.
Thank you, Debbie Sparks and TCA for your patriotism and tireless support of Wreaths Across America. You can hear more from Debbie in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio weekdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.