Wreaths Across America's Trucking Tributes Presents Hoekstra Transportation LLC
Professional drivers and trucking companies give so much to the nation. Without the transportation industry, 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 2021, to be specific, 525 truckloads of wreaths were delivered, representing 390 different carriers.
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, that unity makes it possible for Americans to honor millions of veterans laid to rest here at home and overseas. With over 3,136 participating locations, in addition to Arlington National Cemetery, transportation logistics are immense.
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.
Hoekstra Transportation LLC is a regional carrier located in Illinois, and they have been involved with the Wreaths Across America mission for nine years. “I don’t remember how we first learned about it,” recalls the Director of Administration for Hoekstra, Lori Teders. “I do remember when we first heard about it, we wanted to jump on right away but were too late that year to get involved. We vowed we’d be ready for the following year. Our service area is the Midwest, so it’s a huge field trip for our drivers to go all the way to Maine, and that’s a lot of new scenery for our drivers, so it’s fun when they get to go.”
Bob Rudolf is the Operations Manager for Hoekstra and explains some of the logistics involved. “Once we get communication on what our load is and what day it ships, we start searching the market for the correct load to put us in a position to get out to Maine for pick up. It’s like clockwork. When we get loaded up, we head for our locations.” Over the past several years, Hoekstra Transportation drivers have been getting veterans’ wreaths to awaiting volunteers in Illinois who remember our fallen at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, the Middle East Conflicts Wall, Greenwood Cemetery in Rockton, and Lawnridge Cemetery in Rochelle, Illinois. “I had been here at Hoekstra for four or five years and kept hearing the stories from other drivers who would come back after participating. I never had the privilege to serve in the military, and I wish I had,” Bob shared. “When I heard about Wreaths Across America, I decided that would be the way I could serve.”
Lori elaborates on Hoekstra’s process of selecting drivers for the mission. “We put a fleet message out to all our drivers to see who is interested in hauling that load. We understand that what we do takes the driver out of our mix for normal freight for an entire week. We like to send a different driver every year if we can, and we try to honor those drivers who have served in the military.”
One of those drivers is U.S. Army veteran Bill Blackwood. “I turned 21-years-old while I was in basic training,” Bill shares of his military experience. “I think every young man should go through basic training to teach them discipline, teamwork, and camaraderie and things like that. I was a combat engineer and I feel blessed to have served.” Bill says when he arrived in Maine a few years ago he took part in a ‘Welcome Home’ pinning ceremony for a Vietnam veteran in the Mobile Education Exhibit. It’s a moment that will stay with Bill for a lifetime. “He was appreciative and excited as could be to be there,” Bill reminisced. “There was another Vietnam era driver who was there too with his son and young grandson, so you had three generations experiencing it. It was very moving.”
Lori’s father is a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army, so the Wreaths Across America mission is a personal one for her. In addition to her efforts at Hoekstra Transportation LLC to support the mission, Lori is talking with her family about signing up some small church cemeteries in her community as participating locations as a service project to honor her father. “The man hates presents, so my brothers and I have always tried to do something community-related.”
Thank you, Lori, Bill, Bob, and all the folks at Hoekstra Transportation LLC, for your steadfast and enthusiastic support of the mission! You can hear more on Trucking Tributes heard exclusively on Wreaths Across America Radio every Trucking Tuesday at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.
Tune in to hear Lori Teders, Don Queeney, and Jimmy Mac on "Remember, Honor, Teach" Friday, April 22 at 10:00am ET on The Dave Nemo Show.--SiriusXM 146.