top of page
  • Jimmy Mac

Wreaths Across America's Trucking Tributes Presents Dean Esbenshade and Ashley Furniture

Professional drivers and trucking companies give so much to the nation. Without them, the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach would be nearly impossible. Veterans’ wreaths move by planes, trains, ships, and livestock trailers, but trucks and their professional drivers transport the lion’s share of America's respect. In 2023, to be specific, 717 truckloads of wreaths were delivered, representing 332 different carriers and partners.

In November and December, one of the busiest periods of the year for the transportation sector, the Wreaths Across America mission brings drivers together in an effort of unparalleled unity. With a positive, “can-do” work ethic, these professionals make it possible for Americans to honor millions of veterans laid to rest at home and overseas. In 2024, with over 4,200 participating locations, in addition to Arlington National Cemetery, transportation logistics are immense.


Many of these drivers are military veterans and say the truckload of fresh balsam-fir wreaths is the most precious cargo they transport in their careers. Wreaths Across America shares their stories in the “Trucking Tributes” feature online and on Wreaths Across America Radio and Sirius XM, Channel 146, Road Dog Trucking.


Dean Esbenshade has always been a fan of the trucking industry since he was a boy. “I grew up on a farm, so I was around trucks and diesel engines and stuff, and I just love driving. I don’t care what it is. Even my own car when I was a kid, my parents used to say, ‘Your car never has time to cool down.’ My uncle got me started, though, because I used to jump in the truck with him when he’d deliver eggs to warehouses in New York City. I was probably twelve or thirteen at the time, and we’d drive from Holland, Pennsylvania, really early, like two or three in the morning, so we could maneuver the truck without so much traffic in the parking lots. I remember it was an old white, GMC Cabover, and I know it had a Detroit diesel motor in it because it just screamed at the top of its lungs all the time, so I think that’s what did it. Thirty-nine years later, I’m still at it.”  Dean’s uncle also instilled in him a sense of patriotism and pride. “He served in the National Guard,” Dean shared. “So, he was military, and I had a cousin who served in the Marines.”


Dean worked for twenty-two years with one company until he was forced to transition when that company went out of business. His decision to drive professionally for Ashley Furniture turned out to be a good one, and he’s going into his seventeenth year with Ashley. “I’ve always transported furniture, so I’d wind up at many of the same stores they did, and I saw the Ashley trucks, and I knew it was a good company because they take care of their equipment,” Dean explained. “The action-care manager who worked for the old company went over to Ashley, and he called me. I put the application in there, and that’s the end of that story.” Dean says the only tricky part of the whole transition for him was moving from a small trucking company into a much larger one with over six hundred trucks at that time.



Dean knew Ashley Furniture was participating as a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet, but getting that coveted driving position hauling a load of America’s respect was slightly out of reach. “For a time, you had to be a military veteran to get that load, but as our support grew [for the mission] we haven’t always had enough veterans, so I was selected to do a load,” Dean shared of the process of getting involved. “Ashley has beautifully wrapped trailers that are specifically used for this purpose, so they stay looking good.”


As a professional driver, Dean’s no stranger to the state of Maine because Ashley uses a drop yard in Hermon, but he never expected to be sent to Columbia Falls, Maine, to the driver’s check-in lounge as a first-year driver and member of the Honor Fleet. “The first thing that hit me was how organized it was and how friendly everyone was,” Dean recalled. “They said, ‘Hey, what do you need? What can we get for you? Are you hungry?” he chuckled. “I was honestly a bit in shock because I had heard about it from other Ashley drivers who had participated before, but there I was standing. The only thing I would have done differently was take the tour the man was offering, but we didn’t know how much time we had before our truck would be loaded. There was a lady there, too, who asked us if we wanted to make a wreath, and I didn’t do that either. I wish I had done that. If I come back again, I probably will, that’s for sure.” 


Dean’s responsibility in 2023 was to haul the trailer full of fresh balsam fir veterans’ wreaths to Ashley’s warehouse in Leesport, Pennsylvania. Then, their local drivers would transport them to the participating locations, and some of Ashley’s office staff would go with them, too. Other trailers coming in with wreaths from Maine would be picked up and trucked out to other participating states across the country. “I didn’t know how big of an operation this was, and it’s great to see it grow. I tell everyone I know about it, and of course, the wife puts stuff up on Facebook, but it really does make you feel good, and I like helping out. The families of those who have passed deserve something like this. I’m not a very good speaker, but it kind of hit home with me, I’ll put it that way.”


Dean’s emotion was justified by his encounter while gassing up his truck as he was transporting wreaths. “I was approached by another driver who saw the wreath on the front of my tractor. I looked at his truck and saw the stickers showing he had participated for a number of years, and he reached out his hand to me and said, “Welcome to the family.”


Thank you, Dean Esbenshade and Ashley Furniture, for helping support the mission to remember, honor, and teach.


If you’d like to join the Wreaths Across America Honor Fleet, you can get started with a click right here!


 

You can hear more with Dean on Trucking Tributes, listened to every Truckin’ Tuesday at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM EST on Wreaths Across America Radio and Fridays at 8 AM EST, on The Dave Nemo Show on Sirius XM Channel 146, Road Dog Trucking Radio.


Discover the Trucking Tributes archive playlist on Soundcloud.com.


Sponsor a wreath at the RadioNemo Wreaths Across America Page.

Comentarios


bottom of page