For over a decade, Witte Bros. Exchange, Inc. has been a proud partner in the Wreaths Across America program. Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at more than 1,600 locations across the United States, at sea and abroad, with the most notable ceremony being at Arlington National Cemetery in December on National Wreaths Across America Day. It is WAA’s mission to Remember our fallen U.S. veterans, Honor those who serve, and Teach your children the value of freedom.
Eleven tractor-trailers representing Walmart Transportation, Schneider National, Load One, Witte Bros. Exchange, Inc., Hartt Transportation Systems, Inc., Delhaize Transportation LLC (DBA Hannaford Supermarkets), American Trucking Associations – Share the Road Truck, Pottle’s Transportation, Cargo Transporters, Inc., Nestle Waters North America, Inc. (DBA Poland Spring Bottling Company), hauled a portion of the sponsored 254,000 veterans’ wreaths heading to Arlington National Cemetery for placement on Saturday, December 14, 2019. (Source – Wreaths Across America)
We are always humbled to be a part of this program that honors those who have sacrificed and served for our freedom. At Witte, we are proud to employ many veteran drivers, and it is a tradition to choose one of our veterans to drive in the WAA convoy. This year, the honor went to professional Witte driver, Johnny Jordan! Johnny served in the Army branch of the military and has been driving for Witte for nine years and brought his wife, Christina, along with him this year.
Johnny and Christina departed from our yard in Troy, Mo. on November 30th. They headed northeast to the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland with the final destination being Washington, D.C. They made a few regular deliveries as they made their way to the northeast and on December 6th , the truck got officially loaded with wreaths in Columbia Falls, Maine at the WAA headquarters. While they were at the headquarters, Johnny and Christina got a firsthand look at the wreaths being handmade by wonderful WAA volunteers. Then, throughout the weekend, the convoy made their way further north, stopping at Calais Middle School for breakfast, a sunrise ceremony at the Quoddy Lighthouse and the International Bridge Ceremony at the Canada border. A few times during the week, Johnny even had the opportunity to lead the convoy of trucks, complete with a presidential escort the entire time they were driving.
“When you get in the truck to go to each school, and you get to meet a lot of great people, especially the kids who are so excited to see us. I met so many good people out there like the Gold Star mothers and parents. It is very emotional. It is truly something amazing,” Johnny said.
As a driver in the WAA convoy, Johnny and Christina attended many ceremonies and driver appreciation breakfasts and meals. They met many wonderful people along the entire trip. The Wreaths Across America Program that drivers like Johnny participate in has two phases. The drivers will head up to the northeastern continental U.S. for the first part and the second phase begins when they leave there and head back down towards Washington, D.C. During the second phase, drivers continue to make stops at schools for special assemblies and services events, including the traditional WAA Driver Appreciation Dinner.
“One of the biggest takeaways I had from this was realizing how bright the future is with younger generations. I was in awe of how much schools taught kids about this. All the schools and kids were so patriotic and welcoming and just so intelligent. It blew me away,” Johnny said.
Once the Witte truck and trailer was parked and set-up inside the gates of Arlington National Cemetery, Johnny had the pleasure of helping unload our trailer with wreaths and hand them out to volunteers, he was even able to lay a few wreaths out himself. He said when you lay a wreath down in front of a headstone, you put your hand on the headstone and read the name out loud to keep their memory alive and honor them and what they sacrificed for our country.
A Memorable 2019 Wreaths Across America Trip
Every year, Witte also sends a representative from our home offices to meet up with our driver in Arlington. Darian Uhlmeyer, our senior recruiter, was chosen to attend by CEO Brent Witte. Darian’s wife, Dawn, was also able to accompany him on the trip. This experience was a true privilege to Darian, who served 21 years in the military as a US Navy Chief Petty Officer (SW).
In total, they walked nearly 17,500 steps and had the chance to see some of the sights while they were in Washington, D.C. too. They said some of their favorite things to see where the war memorials, Washington Monument and the Holocaust Museum. Although, being able to lay some wreaths down for our fallen heroes was an experience they will remember forever.
“It was an amazing experience; I don’t have enough words to express the raw emotion you feel being with America’s heroes. It was great to experience Arlington National Cemetery with a fellow veteran and co-worker, Johnny, and to be able to help lay wreaths. I was so beyond proud to see our truck and Wreaths Across America trailer in Arlington, and Johnny helping hand out wreaths for our heroes who gave all, “ Darian said.
Wreaths Across America announced that National Wreaths Across America Day occurred at 2,158 participating locations nationwide. Volunteers in every state assisted in placing a total of 2.2 million wreaths on the headstones of our nation’s heroes, saying each name out loud. At Arlington National Cemetery, even in cold and rainy weather, more than 38,000 volunteers placed 254,000 wreaths. Nearly 600 truckloads of wreaths were transported across the country through a network of hundreds of volunteer drivers, donated trucking services and fuel, and countless hours of dedicated volunteers.
This year the theme for National Wreaths Across America Day was “everyone plays a part.” Each wreath is a handmade balsam wreath that symbolizes respect and appreciation. They are all donated by private citizens or organizations and placed as a small gesture for the freedoms Americans enjoy today.
“Being a part of this made me feel appreciated like I have an important role as a driver. I felt like I didn’t just deliver a load. I delivered a load of wreaths that hold so much meaning. I felt like I was doing something important in life; it really is good for your soul,” said Johnny.
Thank you, Johnny and Christina, for driving the miles on behalf of Witte Bros. Exchange, Inc. and Darian and Dawn for participating in the wreath-laying ceremony in Arlington as well. Participating in Wreaths Across America has become an important and powerful tradition for many, especially for Witte Brothers. We look forward to our future participation in this event that we are so proud to be a part of year after year as we Remember, Honor and Teach.