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.
Remembrance wreaths for our veterans are made from the balsam fir trees grown in Maine. In addition to its natural beauty, Maine has always proved a strategic location throughout our military history. It used to be home to the Dow and Loring U.S. Air Force Base installations, Moscow Air Force Station and Brunswick Naval Air Station.
Rick Parisien lives in Florida today, but he is a Mainer at heart born in Portland. His military career began in 1966. He spent the first twelve years of his service as a flying Crew Chief for a C-141, and he eventually found himself at the northern tip of the state stationed at Loring. Rick served during the Vietnam War.
After retiring from his military career in 1986, Rick entered the trucking industry in a labor relations capacity and eventually became the Human Resources Manager for Hartt Transportation a long-time supporter of the Wreaths Across American mission to remember, honor, and teach based out of Bangor, Maine.
Although he's now retired the Hartt Transportation administration said Rick would be the best one to interview for Trucking Tributes.
"It was 1998-99 when I was serving as the Chairman of the Board for Safety of the Maine Motor Transport Association when Mr. Worcester came to speak with us," Rick recalls. "Morrill was a well-spoken man with a clear vision of what he wanted to do at Arlington National Cemetery and what help he needed. I went back and shared the story with Billy Hartt, and remember those days were not as prosperous as they are today, but we wound up sending a truck and trailer to Wreaths Across America for the Arlington trip."
Rick was able to accompany the truck on the first delivery to Arlington and recalls his emotional experience.
"It's heart-wrenching to see that and participate in that, Rick shares. "To see all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles waiting there to have a wreath to place on their family member's headstone, there are just no words for it, none."
To better explain the power of the remembrance wreath Rick recalls this story.
"There was an elderly woman who approached us just after we had unloaded the last box from the trailer and there were no more wreaths left. She said, 'I'd like to have a wreath to place on my husband's headstone.' I said to myself, 'Oh God, what do I do?' Without saying anything to the woman, I walked around to the front of the truck and cut the wreath from the grill. When I handed her the wreath, she started to cry, and I'll never forget that as long as I live."
Since that time Hartt Transportation has increased its involvement to support the growing transportation logistics and the employees are genuinely excited to share their stories of participation.
"You're paying respects to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for their country, and I think that's sometimes forgotten, what a lot of these great men and women have done. It's our fiduciary responsibility to educate those who have never served in the military, even those who may have an issue with those who do serve in the military, of what it does take out of someone's life, someone's family, someone's loved one to go into the military. You just can't teach that enough."
As a Vietnam veteran, Rick believes in the necessity of teaching younger generations the value of freedom and the trials and tribulations of war. His father Maurice Parisien held the position of National Commander of the American Legion and his son Chris Beck, who is now a police detective in Northern Maine, served three tours of duty in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne.
"That boy suffered so during the war and as a parent you want to take away their pain and suffering," Rick explains. "Why would you not want to share this history?"
Rick says at Hartt Transportation headquarters there's a memorial wall showing the history of Hartt's involvement with Wreaths Across America and it's shown to all new employees joining the team.
"I cant' say enough about the Hartt Transportation family and its commitment to Wreaths Across America and our veterans. It comes from the top, and even the people who do the murals for our trucks take enormous pride in the effort. We all care so much about the dignity and respect we're paying to the homage of the people who have served this country, and it echoes through the whole family."
Thank you, Rick and the entire Hartt Transportation family for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can hear more from Rick and other patriots in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern Monday-Friday.