Wreaths Across America's Trucking Tributes Presents A New Season Underway
The Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach is impossible without the transportation industry. Veterans’ wreaths move by planes, trains, and livestock trailers, but trucks and their professional drivers transport the lion’s share of America’s respect. Many of these drivers are veterans and say the truckload of fresh, balsam-fir wreaths is the most precious cargo they transport in their careers. Wreaths Across America highlights their steadfast commitment in the “Trucking Tributes” feature online and on Wreaths Across America Radio.
Professional drivers and trucking companies give so much to the nation. In December, arguably the busiest time of the year for the transportation sector, the Wreaths Across America mission brings them together in an effort of unparalleled unity. Combined with a “can-do” work ethic, that unity makes it possible for Americans to honor millions of veterans laid to rest here at home and overseas. With over 2,500 participating locations and Arlington National Cemetery, transportation logistics are immense.
Don Queeney is the Director of Transportation for Wreaths Across America. He humbly admits when he first learned of the organization, he figured trucking logistics must be a breeze. After all, he had over forty successful years in the moving industry. “I was there one year to pick up a load of wreaths and was watching them in operations. I’m the kind of guy who sticks his nose into everything because I like to learn about what people are doing,” Don chuckled. “I said to Rob Worcester at the time, just give me a chalkboard and some paper and pencils, and I can figure this out; it can’t be that complicated. Rob said, ‘oh, yeah, smarty-pants?’ and invited me to join them the next year for planning.” Don took him up on the offer, and the following year he joined them and soon learned logistics behind the mission to remember, honor, and teach were far from simple. “I was there to learn and observe, and there I was sticking my nose in again looking over maps and asked, ‘why don’t we group these together?’ They all rolled their eyes at me as if to say, ‘hey, who’s the new guy?’” Consider the fresh, hand-made balsam fir veterans’ wreaths are a perishable product. Also consider, thousands of incredible patriots across the nation working to live up to their legacy. These sponsored wreaths need to be transported from Columbia Falls, Maine, to awaiting volunteers at over 2,500 participating locations, including Arlington National Cemetery. “On average, that’s about five hundred trailer loads out of Columbia Falls in a six-and-a-half-week period,” Don explains. “We have about 390 carriers we lean on, and some of them do multiple loads. Our west coast intermodal shipments go out before Thanksgiving. 17 or more, 53-foot-high cubed J.B. Hunt containers, partnered with Burlington Northern and Norfolk Southern Railroads, go out to three locations in Phoenix, San Jose, and Tacoma. We have other cross-docks that are not that far west with Total Transportation Mississippi and our friends in St. Louis at McGuire Moving and Storage, and those loads go out just after Thanksgiving. Then the bulk of the trucking begins. On average, we load out between thirty and forty trucks a day. Keep in mind we only have six loading bays used six weeks out of a year, not 52 weeks a year. Every year we work to make improvements. It’s a small feat in my mind, and of course, here in New England, the weather constantly plays a factor.”
It’s also critical for Wreaths Across America to consider the human side of product logistics. The mission profoundly impacts millions of citizens across the country and overseas. Now that we’ve reached July, the trucking department of Wreaths Across America is in full gear leading up to national Wreaths Across America Day, Saturday, December 18, 2021. “This time of year, we begin vetting our carriers and asking them to re-register for this year,” Don explains. “After that, we start assigning our drivers their loads, and that’s the most challenging, yet rewarding part of the trucking equation. Many of our companies and drivers have been with us for years and have made great friendships with the receivers, in this case, volunteer location coordinators for Wreaths Across America. As we grow, it gets more challenging to assign loads in some instances, but we do the very best we can.”
Wreaths Across America is growing, and more trucks and drivers are always needed to support the mission. “I’ve never seen a time when we had more trucks than we needed. It’s important to bring fresh drivers and companies into the fold with us, especially those who can handle that eleventh-hour call. Things happen. Sometimes we’ll encounter a situation where we need to get just one box here or two or three boxes of wreaths there. Aces in the whole and extra capacity will always be needed, and there’s a role for big carriers, small carriers, and individuals.”
To find out more about hauling America’s respect, visit: https://trucking.wreathsacrossamerica.org/#waa-trucking-intro
You can hear more of Don’s full interview on Trucking Tributes, which can be heard every Tuesday at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM EDT exclusively on Wreaths Across America Radio.
Tune in to hear Don Queeney, Michael Hale, and Jimmy Mac on "Remember, Honor, Teach" Friday, July 23 at 10am ET on The Dave Nemo Show--SiriusXM 146.