Few things are as humbling as a national cemetery. There is a certain solemnity to a visit there as if the Earth’s gravity were somehow stronger at these poignant locations.
To most Americans, these hallowed grounds are worth visiting and paying respects to the servicemembers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. However, there is an ongoing annual event that takes place in December that goes one step further: Each year, thousands of volunteers descend on select national cemeteries to place wreaths at the graves of our fallen heroes.
But the wreaths don’t magically appear at the sites on their own; a dozen or so dedicated driving teams take to the roads to deliver the wreaths to waiting volunteers.
One such driving team, military veterans Robyn and Doug Hyde are delivering wreaths this year to several sites:
Wes O’Donnell: What makes Wreaths Across America deliveries different from other loads you carry during the year?
Robyn & Doug Hyde: They don’t have the potential to blow up! It’s actually similar to what we do because our regular loads that we haul support the warfighter, the Wreaths Across America loads honor our past warfighters.
Wes: Are there any specific challenges to delivering wreaths to some of these military cemeteries?
Robyn & Doug: A lot of these historic cemeteries weren’t made to accommodate a 70-foot tractor/trailer. We have to respect the sanctity of the location and still get the delivery done. We certainly don’t want to be tearing up grass or monuments as we enter or exit the locations.
Wes: To veterans who may be reading, how can they support your journey?
Robyn & Doug: We always appreciate the honks and thumbs up we get as we are driving down the highway. It’s especially cool when they are holding up their veteran hat or we see the veteran bumper sticker. We absolutely love that support.
The Wreaths Across America official press release follows, including the schedule of locations and events:
Wreaths Across America is On the Road Again With The Annual Escort of Wreaths and Virtual Convoy
Socially distance outside and Join us roadside or virtually from the safety of your own home
as we fulfill the mission to honor vets all across America
COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine — December 3, 2020 — Wreaths Across America (WAA), is a national non-profit whose Mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach, is in part carried out with the placement of sponsored veterans’ wreaths at 2500 participating locations across America, most notably, at Arlington National Cemetery, each December. Another highly anticipated piece of this annual event is the weeklong, miles-long parade of tractor trailers, wrapped vehicles carrying veterans and Gold Star Families, law enforcement and motorcycle riders, leading the escort of wreaths to Arlington for placement.
This year’s annual escort of wreaths will have a different look and feel due to the necessary changes being made throughout the country for health and safety. The physical journey – which will include one tractor trailer load of wreaths hauled by Gully Transportation professional driver JD Walker, who is also a Gold Star Father and NAVY Veteran, 11 wrapped CHEVY vehicles carrying Gold Star Families, and nine police cruisers – will take place from Tuesday, Dec. 15, through National Wreaths Across America Day, Saturday, Dec. 19.
“For those who have had the opportunity to participate in the escort of wreaths over the years, it is truly an experience of a lifetime,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, WAA. “The way
we have been welcomed into communities, over the years, with flags waving and streets lined with children and veterans, is something we always wished every American could witness. And now, thanks to PenFed’s support, we’ll be able to offer this incredible journey to all those who wish to participate. We are both grateful and excited to safely share the mission with all who want to participate.”
In partnership with PenFed Credit Union’s digital media content team, PenFed Digital, this year’s escort will also be shared virtually for the nation to join along from the safety of their own homes. PenFed Digital and WAA are overcoming pandemic-related challenges to ensure fallen heroes are honored safely. During the escort and leading up to its departure, viewers can follow along, learning about the mission and hearing stories from the people it impacts on Wreaths Across America’s Facebook and PenFed’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn pages. From the professional truck drivers hauling this precious cargo to the hard-working, dedicated volunteers receiving them on the other side of the country, we are going to share their journeys too!
“We are proud to partner with Wreaths Across America to tell the stories of our nation’s veterans – the men and women who served to protect our freedoms,” said James Schenck, CEO of PenFed Credit Union and PenFed Foundation. “It’s even more important that we continue to support the military community and give back during these uncertain times. This year is going to be especially memorable with both in-person events and the sharing of many incredible stories via social media with those at home. Everyone needs patriotism this holiday season and PenFed is proud to support Wreaths Across America’s mission to remember, honor and teach.”
The WAA escort will travel the route below – the nonprofit is asking Americans to plan to come out and wave your flags, share your signs and cheers of encouragement, as it travels through your community.
Tuesday, December 15
· 9:00AM Coastal Washington County Institute of Technology 12 Addison Rd., Columbia, ME 04330
· 11 am Parade through downtown Ellsworth, ME
· 12:45PM Arrive at Central Maine Veterans’ Memorial Park Roderick Rd, Winslow, ME 04901
· 3:15PM – Arriveat Ocean Gateway, Portland ME 14 Ocean Gateway Pier, Portland, ME 04101
Wednesday, December 16
· 8:00AM Leave Portland (small detour through York Village)
· 10:10AM Arrive at MA State Line
· 12:30PM Parade through portion of Worcester, MA
· 3:30PM Arrives at Regal Cinemas, Branford, CT 325 E. Main St. Branford, CT
· 7:30PM Cross the George Washington Bridge
Thursday, December 17
· 9:45AM Arrive at Vietnam Veterans’ Museum, Holmdel, NJ 1 Memorial Ln, Holmdel, NJ 07733
· 1:30PM Arrive at Holy Rosary Church (The Guardian of the Defenders Memorial) 3200 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, DE 19703
· 3:30PM Arrive at Whitehall Village 801 Mapleton Ave., Middletown, DE 19709
· 6:00PMArrive at American Legion Post 278 Kent Island 800 Romancoke Rd, Stevensville, MD 21666
Friday, December 18
· Virtual Event 6:30-8:30PM – Watch LIVE on Wreaths Across America Official Facebook Page
These stops will be held with safety in mind as we ask citizens to tune in to the local radio dials listed below and hear real-time updates from Wreaths Across America Radio who will be traveling in the escort.
· Ellsworth, Maine (parade through town) – 98.5 FM
· Central Maine Veterans Memorial, Winslow, ME- 91.9 FM
· Ocean Gateway, Portland, Maine – 90.7 FM
· Parade through portion of Worcester, MA -97.1 FM
· Branford, CT Regal Cinemas – 91.9 FM
· Vietnam Veterans Museum, Liberty Park, NJ – 91.9 FM
· Holy Rosary Church, Guardians of the Defenders Memorial, Claymont, DE – 90.5 FM
· Whitehall Village, Middletown, DE – 90.5 FM
· American Legion Post 278 Kent Island, Stevensville, MD – 90.3 FM
· 90.5 FM
PenFed Digital is the only group following Wreaths Across America’s escort from Maine, where the wreaths are assembled, to the laying of the wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery and around the entire country.
To find a cemetery near you to support or to learn how local events are being modified for safety in your community click here.
You can sponsor a wreath for $15 at https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/. Each sponsorship goes toward a fresh balsam veteran’s wreath that will be placed on the headstone
of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest on Saturday, December 19, 2020, as part of National Wreaths Across America Day. You can text WREATH to 20222 to sponsor a wreath for Arlington National Cemetery right from your phone.
About Wreaths Across America
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. For more information or to sponsor a wreath please visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
About PenFed Credit Union
Established in 1935, Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) is America’s second-largest federal credit union, serving over 2 million members worldwide with over $26 billion in assets. PenFed Credit Union offers market-leading certificates, checking, credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and a wide range of other financial services with members’ interests always in mind. PenFed Credit Union is federally insured by the NCUA and is an Equal Housing Lender.