A Tribute Worthy Of Thanks

November 28, 2013

A Tribute Worthy Of Thanks

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By Brad Bentley

This is the time of year when Americans reflect on the things for which they are most thankful. Earlier this week, I was reminded of how thankful our country should be to have people with purpose like Morrill and Karen Worcester, founders of Worcester Wreath Company, who began the non-profit group Wreaths Across America in 2007 with the goal of honoring military veterans by placing wreaths at the grave sites of fallen soldiers.

Wreaths Across America’s mission of Remember, Honor, Teach is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies on a specified Saturday in December. For years, this occurred only at Arlington National Cemetery, but has recently expanded to veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.

Part of Wreaths Across America rapid growth is the result of the generosity of the trucking industry, and this year they’re counting on truckers for a little more help. That assistance will come in the form of the trucking industry’s first annual rolling tribute, which kicked off this Tuesday (November 26), when the Worcesters teamed up with Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and Pilot Flying J to hand out 100s of free wreaths to any professional truck driver who wanted one at the Pilot Travel Center in Milford, Conn.

Karen and Morrill Worcester are on a mission to place a wreath on every fallen soldier’s headstone at Arlington National Cemetery.

Karen and Morrill Worcester are on a mission to place a wreath on every fallen soldier’s headstone at Arlington National Cemetery.

Pottle’s Transportation’s Bob Sousa, an Army veteran, delivered several pallets of wreaths to Connecticut for the event, where local volunteers joined in the efforts to reach as many drivers as possible. I was in Washington, D.C. on Monday for the unloading of the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, so I decided to make the trek up I-95 as well.

In between trips back and forth to the fuel island to talk to drivers, Morrill Worcester told the various media outlets present that we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we have today if it wasn’t for what the veterans have done. “They’ve stepped up time and time again, all down through history,” Morrill stated.

I asked Karen Worcester why they chose to drive to a location nine hours away from their headquarters in Maine instead of choosing a truck stop that was closer. “We knew this was a busy truck stop and are trying to get as many wreaths as possible to veterans’ graves,” Karen said. “We wouldn’t be doing trucking or anything else we do without the sacrifices of those men and women, so embracing those families at the holidays is important for us to do.”

Nationwide, donations to Wreaths Across America are up by 20%, but the Worcesters said support for Arlington has dipped as more people get involved with wreath-laying ceremonies in their local communities. The rolling tribute was a way to create more awareness for Arlington National Cemetery, where the Worcesters will travel for this year’s Wreaths Across America Day on December 14.

Mission accomplished.

There was a steady flow of traffic all day at the Pilot Travel Center in Milford, where drivers received zip ties to attach a wreath to the grill of their truck onsite as an immediate show of support. Many drivers were shocked that the wreaths were free, but all were appreciative of the efforts to honor our veterans.

Morrill Worcester attaches a wreath to the grill of a truck as the driver was fueling.

Morrill Worcester attaches a wreath to the grill of a truck as the driver was fueling.

“We gave the wreaths away with one stipulation – that on National Wreaths Across America Day they take that wreath off their truck and find a veteran’s grave to place it upon. This idea started after seeing many of our volunteer professional drivers participating in the annual escort to Arlington remove the wreaths affixed to the grill of their rigs, and place it on a headstone once we made it to the cemetery,” Morrill said. “This very personal expression of gratitude was shared in pictures and online and became a symbol of how dedicated the trucking industry is to supporting our nation’s military.”

Drivers participating in the rolling tribute were also asked to photograph and share their experience online using #rollingtribute. Each driver’s wreath is one half of a Patriot Pair, with an additional remembrance wreath donated by the Worcesters set will be laid at Arlington National Cemetery. Worcester Wreath Company is donating the first 2,000 wreaths in the hopes that all professional drivers will want to become part of the rolling tribute.

Another new option of support for all professional drivers this year is called Trucking’s Patriot Pair, which can be ordered online at http://www.truckloadofrespect.com and shipped directly to the driver’s specified address. With a donation amount of $30, drivers will receive one wreath and fasteners for display on the grill of their tractor, and a second wreath will be placed on a veteran’s headstone at Arlington National Cemetery. In addition, all drivers who donate will receive a Wreaths Across America window decal.

I truly believe that Thanksgiving is the one day that is purely American, and I left Connecticut with a renewed sense of patriotism, as did hundreds of truckers that are now using their big rigs to deliver a strong message this holiday season.

Because of the efforts of Morrill and Karen Worcester, these specially-adorned trucks are rolling down America’s highways with wreaths to pay tribute to service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

For that, we should all be thankful.