Wreaths Across America's Trucking Tributes Presents the Bennett Family of Companies
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 2,700 participating locations and Arlington National Cemetery, transportation logistics are immense.
“One of the slogans we have around here is, love country, love trucking,” exclaims Lee Gentry, Executive Vice President with the Bennett Family of Companies out of Georgia. “We have a lot of employees who have served or who have family members currently serving. We’ve always had a love of country, and a few years ago, we added patriotism to our list of core values to better express that.”
Founded in 1974, Bennett Family of Companies has experienced steady growth throughout the years. Its diversity is part of its formula for success. Heavy hauling, driveway services, equipment distribution, cranes and rigging, and flatbed and van services are all a part of their business offerings. The other part of the equation is the core values shared by employees, which include integrity, passion for family, and honoring our country and those who served.
Donna Padgett joined the Bennett Family of Companies about fifteen years ago as their Sr. Director of Financial Planning and Analysis for Bennett Motor Express, LLC. Donna shares why she’s so happy to go to work every day. “Honestly, it’s our core values, and we’re very much a faith-based company. Whether you’re a part of leadership, a janitor, driver, or other employee, everybody lives by those core values here at Bennett, and when we added the most recent one of patriotism, that just spoke to me in my heart. They live them.”
Supporting military veterans is near and dear to Donna’s heart because her uncle, Sgt. James Wesley Jackson, Jr. served as a U.S. Marine and is listed as missing in action in Vietnam. “My mother passed away in 2018, and I believe I watched her grieve the loss of her baby brother for her entire life,” Donna expressed. “One day before he was coming home there was an explosion on the hill where he was in Vietnam in 1969. He went missing after that. My family has searched for years for answers as to his whereabouts. Our family has DNA samples on file in Hawaii should anything ever be found. My grandparents were very involved in helping to get the whole structure of the POW/MIA organization set up.”
Donna and Lee attended Wreaths Across America’s Stem to Stone event in Maine this past July, where they were surprised with the James Prout Spirit of Giving Award.
“We’re just honored and humbled to be a small part of the effort,” Lee shared. “Our biggest haul was in 2019 with over 15,705 wreaths, I believe. We honor the truck drivers for hauling that precious cargo too. We have a massive escort from McDonough to the Andersonville National Cemetery.”
The enthusiasm for the mission to remember, honor, and teach is palpable at the Bennett Family of Companies as they prepare to support the mission again in 2021. Thank you, Lee, Donna, and all the team members at Bennett who move the mission forward. You can hear Lee and Donna’s entire interview on Trucking Tributes heard exclusively on Wreaths Across America Radio on Tuesdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM eastern.