In recognition of military appreciation month, we’re sharing stories from veterans working in the trucking industry and from folks in transportation who are honoring fallen soldiers, veterans and active duty personnel. We recently spoke with Don Queeney, Wreaths Across America’s Director of Transportation and Mobile Educational Exhibit, to learn more about Wreaths Across America’s mission and the carriers and drivers who participate in the organization’s annual National Wreaths Across America Day. Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies every December at Arlington National Cemetery and at more than 3,000 other locations across the United States and abroad for National Wreaths Across America Day. These ceremonies are devoted to fallen soldiers, veterans and active duty military in recognition of their sacrifice and service.

About Wreaths Across America

In 1992, Morrill Worcester, owner of Maine-based Worcester Wreath Company, found himself with a surplus of wreaths toward the end of the holiday season. With the help of then Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, Morrill decided to use his surplus of wreaths to honor U.S. veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. Local trucking company Blue Bird Ranch and volunteers from nearby VFW Posts and American Legions stepped in to help Morrill. The annual tribute continued quietly until it received national media attention, causing thousands of people to contact Morrill to volunteer or to hold similar tributes in their own states, cities and towns. In 2007, Morrill and his wife Karen formed Wreaths Across America as a non-profit organization with the goal of remembering fallen soldiers, honoring their sacrifices and teaching younger generations about both. In 2021, Wreaths Across America and its volunteer network laid 2.5 million sponsored veterans’ wreaths at 3,157 locations in all 50 U.S. states and abroad. In addition to National Wreaths Across America Day, the organization honors veterans throughout the year with events and programs.

“What started out as one man with a load of wreaths back 30 years ago has turned into a national opportunity for people to pay tribute to our veterans on their own,” said Don. “One of the things that makes Wreaths Across America so unique is that the organization facilitates these wreath laying ceremonies by making use of our vast volunteer network to bring on new cemeteries. Our volunteers take the time and look for sponsorships and donations necessary to get these wreaths. Truckers and carriers and their volunteerism and donations of in-kind transportation services play a major role in making National Wreaths Across America Day happen. Millions of folks participate in Wreaths Across America all across the country. The organization is a nonprofit that basically is set up to facilitate these wreath-laying ceremonies and so many other things. What was once a December mission to remember, honor and teach has become a year round mission.”

“What started out as one man with a load of wreaths back 30 years ago has turned into a national opportunity for people to pay tribute to our veterans on their own,” said Don. “One of the things that makes Wreaths Across America so unique is that the organization facilitates these wreath laying ceremonies by making use of our vast volunteer network to bring on new cemeteries. Our volunteers take the time and look for sponsorships and donations necessary to get these wreaths. Truckers and carriers and their volunteerism and donations of in-kind transportation services play a major role in making National Wreaths Across America Day happen. Millions of folks participate in Wreaths Across America all across the country. The organization is a nonprofit that basically is set up to facilitate these wreath-laying ceremonies and so many other things. What was once a December mission to remember, honor and teach has become a year round mission.”

The Role of Truckers and Fleets

As Wreaths Across America’sDirector of Transportation, Don oversees transportation of the wreaths, as well as supporting and recruiting drivers and carriers for National Wreaths Across America and for other events throughout the year. Don has owned a trucking company for the last 43 years and started out volunteering his time and truck capacity to the organization, eventually joining the Wreaths Across America staff in 2018.  According to Don, many of the truckers who volunteer their time and trucks to Wreaths Across America are either veterans themselves or BlueStar or GoldStar families who’ve lost a loved one or who have children serving in the military. The organization is always trying to grow its driver and carrier network and volunteering time or donating capacity to Wreaths Across America is a great way to show your patriotism and affinity for veterans.

“We always are recruiting drivers and trying to retain the ones we have,” Don said. “We also need the help of shop folks, back office folks, billing clerks and dispatchers. If you’re a carrier owner, volunteering can show your employees that you’re a warm hearted company and that you’re doing good things. You try to do as many good things as you can so that it touches as many of the people that work for you as possible. At the end of the day, they can say to their friends, ‘I work for a very good company and I like working here.’ That’s what you’re after. By doing this type of work it shows you’re doing good within your community. The assets that you need to do this are already there. It’s an amazing employee engagement opportunity. It can be as little as making a donation for some wreaths at a nearby cemetery and telling everybody within the organization about it, hauling a load of wreaths, blogging about it, or taking good photos and videos. It’s a good team building opportunity. If you’re a carrier with a lot of veteran drivers, it’s a really good way to make sure that they can be involved in something that’s a little bit bigger than all of us.”

How You Can Get Involved with Wreaths Across America

If you’re an owner operator, company driver or fleet owner who would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities with Wreaths Across America and National Wreaths Across America Day, visit https://trucking.wreathsacrossamerica.org. To volunteer or get more information, you also can email waatrucking@wreathsacrossamerica.org.

The National Association for Independent Truckers is partnering with Wreaths Across America to offer independent owner operator volunteers fuel assistance in the form of fuel cards to help address the current high cost of diesel.  

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, visit https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org