More than 225,000 wreaths were laid on headstones of fallen members of the U.S. military on the morning of Dec. 15, as thousands of volunteers — including representatives from the trucking industry — turned out for the annual Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
ATA Share the Road Drivers Nate McCarty (left) and Ralph Garcia. (Kelley Zimmerman/Transport Topics)
For 27 years now, Wreaths Across America has organized wreath-laying events for fallen veterans at over 1,600 cemeteries. As they have in the past, American Trucking Associations’ Share the Road trucks and members of America’s Road Team played a role.
“Wreaths Across America could not deliver and have the ceremonies and would not be in existence without the generosity of the trucking industry,” said Karen Worcester, who, with her husband, Morrill, started Wreaths Across America in Maine in 1992.
This year, about 1.8 million wreaths were assembled in Maine and distributed throughout all 50 states and in several countries. Each balsam fir tree used for the wreaths can be trimmed and harvested every three years.
More than 600 trucks nationwide delivered wreaths on Dec. 15, including 60 that were lined up throughout Arlington on Dec. 14 in preparation for the mass distribution. Trucks from an array of private carriers and logistics companies were present.
While it rained in Arlington the day of delivery, good weather accompanied ATA Share the Road drivers and former Road Team captains Ralph Garcia and Nate McCarty and their rig — which was filled with 3,900 wreaths — from Columbia Falls, Maine, to Arlington.
PHOTO GALLERY: Wreaths Across America
“It started with one truck and has grown to this,” McCarty said. “These wreaths go to every national cemetery now.”
This is McCarty’s third year delivering wreaths to Arlington. The assignment is particularly meaningful to McCarty, a veteran who completed a six-month tour in Desert Storm at the age of 18, and following that, served six years in the National Guard.
We were blessed to be @WreathsAcross! While sharing our story, we ran into the widow of a fallen hero. Check it out! Our prayers go out to the loved ones of veterans. @TCANews @TRUCKINGdotORG @CREngland #BeTheirWitness pic.twitter.com/JCkcsPLHmk— Chad England (@EnglandChad) December 17, 2018
While those who served closely with McCarty made it home safely, a close high school friend who deployed to Iraq was killed in 2007. “He was a guy that all of us wanted to be. I do this in honor of him,” McCarty said.
Poland Spring truck pulling up early on the morning of Dec. 15. (Kelley Zimmerman/Transport Topics)
“It is so good to meet these drivers who all have a story, all have a mission,” Worcester said.
The trucks parked throughout Arlington were unloaded by more than 90,000 volunteers. Some were first-time volunteers, while others have been participating for years. Volunteers included families who lost loved ones, local sports teams, organizations that support veterans and others who simply have a heart to give their time.
Like so many who return every year, McCarty knows he will be back next year in some capacity. “I am always going to be involved in this,” McCarty said.
The Worcesters hope to see the success of the wreath program continue to grow so that every veteran may someday receive a wreath.