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.
Wreaths Across America's mission objectives are for the living and the nation's trucking industry exemplifies that statement with steadfast pride and honor.
Since 1991, Gretchen L. Jackson has been working her way up in the trucking industry in Joplin, Missouri and today she holds the title of Senior Manager of Driver Recruiting for CFI, a dry-van truckload transportation company.
"Wreaths Across America is near to my heart," Gretchen shares. "I don't personally have any military service background but my grandfather, James K. Maupin served under General George S. Patton and he was laid to rest at his request in Arlington National Cemetery in 2006. We also took my grandmother there when she passed away. It's such an honor to have them buried there and they had ceremonies with full honors. It was so meticulous and emotional."
Gretchen says having that personal connection with Arlington is very meaningful but the cemetery is a long way from Joplin, Missouri.
"It's been a dream of mine to go back to Arlington with my Mom to be a part of National Wreaths Across America Day to place remembrance wreaths on my grandparents' graves."
According to Gretchen CFI went above and beyond two years ago when they helped make her dream come true.
"This company has always been a supporter of Wreaths Across America through thick and thin and we've of course done the truckload transports of wreaths but we've never had it in the plan for anyone to attend. My Mother had to pay for her trip but CFI covered the expenses for me to go back to Arlington."
Gretchen says while her mother waited in the line of volunteers to get wreaths from a truck she took a moment to witness what was unfolding around her at other gravesites.
"The emotion was intense," Gretchen recalls. "There was a gentleman obviously mourning over a parent's grave and he kneeled down and touched the stone and was praying over it and talking to it and then he went to the other side and did the same thing. I watched a lady who brought a blanket and coffee and she set a coffee cup on top of the headstone and she just sat there and visited with the person. Just then, some Blackhawks flew over and a bunch of leaves were sucked up into the air. The leaves started to slowly settle down over us. My grandmother was a horticulturist so it was such a peaceful moment for both my mom and me, and we knew they were right there with us. Wreaths Across America and CFI afforded us that opportunity."
Gretchen says the "power of the remembrance wreath" was all around them that day in Arlington National Cemetery.
Professional driver George Henderson has been with CFI just shy of ten years, working as a local driver in Houston, Texas for a little over seven years. During the Vietnam War, George spent some time in the United States Naval Reserve. As with many people of George's generation, it's not uncommon to find a rich military service history in their background. Both of his parents enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served during World War II. His father, George B. Henderson was a Norden Bomb Sight technician.
"My aunt was married to a career military officer and they did the occupation of Germany and the occupation of Japan. My wife's father was a POW taken by a German tank crew during World War II."
Since 2010, George has transported a truck load of respect to the Houston National Cemetery and the Woodlawn Funeral Home and Cemetery, also in Houston.
George says his heart was touched by Wreaths Across America when it reminded Americans of the importance of the mission to remember, honor, and teach by using a quote about dying twice. The first time when our heart stops beating and the second time when our name is spoken aloud for the last time.
"When you're my age, that concept really gives you something to think about," George says. "We stand on the shoulders of everybody behind us and remembering their legacy is important stuff. We owe these people a huge debt. Things would be very, very, very different for us if those folks had not joined up to serve and do their part."
Thank you, Gretchen, George and the entire team at CFI for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can hear more from Gretchen, George 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.