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WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA

A Chance To Remember, Honor and Teach

DMAC
12/14/2019


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Bay Pines National Cemetery – St Petersburg, Florida

 Or at a National Cemetery near you….

 

 

What really bothers me is that it’s December 11, 2019 – and Saturday, December 14th we convene at Bay Pines National Cemetery to participate in Wreaths Across America to “remember the Fallen…Honor those who Serve…Teach our children the value of Freedom."

As of today, there are only 3,598 sponsored wreaths, with 30,402 graves that will not receive a wreath.  

 

 

 I’ve been participating there since 2012 – when I was invited by the attendant at my Big John’s funeral. Honestly – never heard of this before that time, not even through my American Legion, or from my Dad, a WWII Navy Vet. Now , for me and a few friends/veterans, it’s become an annual tradition…and is involving more and more people every year.

 

  I guess you could say this is the one memorial event that all departed veterans are remembered – and it’s really a beautiful site to be seen, but even better to be a part of.   It really warms the heart and soul.

 

 

The whole ceremony actually got started when the original picture (above) went viral on the internet in 2005, after the Worcester Wreath Company owner, Morrill, started donating leftover wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery . He began doing this in in 1992 with the help of local truckers who transported his wreaths to Virginia. Local American Legion and VFW Post volunteers helped hand tie the bows, and they Maine State Society of Washington, D.C. arranged a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

 Why Arlington? The owner was forever changed when he won a trip to Washington DC as a paperboy for the Bangor Daily News – Arlington National Cemetery was unforgettable. He truly recognized the ultimate sacrifice made by the US Veterans resting there.

 Fast forward to today this event now spreading over 1000 locations in the United States that include the 9/11 sites, and battle memorials Pearl Harbor, Valley Forge, and Bunker Hill. In 2014, the organization finally met their goal of covering all graves in Arlington with wreaths – 226,525 of them trucked, shipped ,and placed. 

 In 2018, we are back to our local Bay Pines National Cemetery after escorting the wreaths in from Interstate 4 Veterans and bikers solemnly escorted the 2 rigs to our local grounds. 

 

 From there, the distribution begins with a greeting by the local First Responders.

 

 The wreaths are then distributed throughout the grounds for volunteers to distribute.

 

 The most wreaths ever distributed in Bay Pines were over slightly over 6000 in 2017 when Sarasota National Cemetery had a surplus and shipped them over to Bay Pines.

 

 The communities all come together – Veterans, Bikers, Civil Air Patrol, Boy Scouts, Young, Old,

Widows/widowers, children, grandchildren and even some canines – to participate and honor

Those interred in the hallowed grounds. 

 

 

 After the wreath laying, the memorial ceremony beginning with the presentation of Colors is held in the intersection leading to the main grounds. 

 

 Wreaths are positioned around the memorial for each branch of service and local

Veteran speakers rekindle their histories for all to hear. 

 

 The days event concludes with TAPS being played.

 

 For the 2018 event – the last wreath of the day was laid by Kenneth Fooshee who was the Owner Operator of one of the rigs that brought the wreaths to Florida. 

 

 In Ken’s words:

I am an Owner Operator Leased to Brown Trucking aka James Brown Trucking out of Lithonia Georgia, my wife Yvette and I reside in Summerfield FL. I have been leased to them for going on 7 years now. We primarily haul cardboard boxes for International Paper. My home terminal is Savannah Georgia and my Terminal Manager that helped me propose this idea to haul Wreaths is Donna Fisher.

 

 I had heard about Wreaths Across America project while listening to XM radio. I first thought that it was only hauling wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. 

Then one of my Aunts in Chicago had a wreath sent to her by another family member to honor her husband. Later that year, I heard an interview of a driver that hauls to Sarasota National Cemetery what an honor it was to do and I thought that this would be something I would like to do so I proposed it to my terminal manager in 2014 to get a feeling if Brown would allow me to participate. Donna Fisher got approval from our CEO Kevin Slaughter. In 2015, my wife Yvette and I made our first trip to Columbia Falls and though it was a trying trip. We were very impressed with the operation and the story of Morrill Worcester and his dream.

 

 Our first load was met with such gratitude and admiration by all of our deliveries that we were hooked. 

Yvette and I have done the same stops:  Bronson, FL, New Port Richey FL, Tampa FL, Fort Meyers FL, Naples FL, and St. Petersburg FL (Bay Pines) with the change of Naples this year to Riverview FL.

Naples was covered by another carrier this year.

 

 All of the deliveries have always been fantastic and do all they can do to be accommodating to our needs and schedules.

 

 This year we had 685 boxes of wreaths to deliver on our run. That is 6,165 wreaths.

 

 We were light on our delivery to Bay Pines this year with 128 boxes 1152 wreaths.

 

 We were also asked if we would like to participate in the parade and wreath laying ceremony by the folks from Pinellas Technical College ( Laura Kingsland) and were very honored to oblige.

 

 After the ceremony I removed the wreath from the front of my rig to place on the headstone of Faustino Aspra ( a random choice of markers not covered) SGT  3508 Base Unit AAF World War II June 6,1904 June 3 1963 to honor and respect his service and thank him.”

 

 This year, Bay Pines National Cemetery is in need of 30, 402 wreaths to reach their goal. Here’s hoping that we can blanket the grounds and continue the tradition – Remember, Honor, Teach. IF not, there’s always next year. 

 For more information on locations for the event , to volunteer, or to donate wreaths, check out the organization’s website:

 https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

 Respect.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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