Two tractor trailers pulled out of the Walmart St. James Distribution Center early Monday morning under a Missouri State Highway Patrol and St. James Police Department escort. They were carrying precious cargo—holiday wreaths that will be laid on the graves of fallen soldiers for National Wreath-Laying Day on December 16.
Two tractor trailers pulled out of the Walmart St. James Distribution Center early Monday morning under a Missouri State Highway Patrol and St. James Police Department escort. They were carrying precious cargo—holiday wreaths that will be laid on the graves of fallen soldiers for National Wreath-Laying Day on December 16. The two trucks were decorated with a balsam fir memorial wreath attached to the front grill and “Wreaths Across America,” was emblazoned on the trailers.
Walmart is donating the services of 16 tractor trailers to transport 85,000 wreaths to memorial ceremonies across the country as part of the company’s involvement in Wreaths Across America and National Wreath Laying Day. Walmart support includes a $150,000 donation from the Walmart Foundation that will help Wreaths Across America purchase 15,000 wreaths for placement at national cemeteries and 9/11 memorial sites across the United States, including Arlington National Cemetery.
In total, Walmart trucks will deliver 85,000 wreaths to 20 national cemeteries in 12 states (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas) and the District of Columbia.
Any undertaking of this size requires logistics planning, particularly during the busy holiday season. The balsam fir wreaths originated in Lewiston, Main. Walmart trucks hauled them from Lewiston to Grove City, Ohio and into St. James, where they were relayed on to Bartlesville, Okl., arriving by 3 p.m., Monday afternoon. A different Walmart trucking team will take the trailers to Plainview, Tex. where they will relay on to Porterville, Ca., and the other, to Buckeye, Ariz.
The two St. James drivers, Gary Barcus and Bruce Setter, are both veterans and feel a sense of purpose with their personal involvement in the program. “We’re honoring the veterans that can’t be here with us today,” said Barcus.
“There’s a lot of guys that didn’t make it back, so this is a way to honor them—especially for the families at Christmas time,” said Setter. “It gives the families time to include their lost one in their Christmas [activities]. It’s very special to be a part of that. I don’t know about Gary, but I’m still in awe of how it all works. I think it’s a wonderful program and I’d love to see people support it.”
Walmart General Transportation Manager (GTM) Rocky Griffith, said, “We appreciate our veterans here at Walmart.” “We appreciate Bruce and Gary that have stepped-up to escort these loads and we’re proud as a company to support Wreaths Across America. These guys had to adjust their schedules which impacts their pay, to escort these two loads, so we appreciate them for all they do.”
After a celebration breakfast, GTM Griffith met the escorts, Sgt. Cody Fulkerson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Lt. Carl Swanson of the St. James Police Department near the tractor trailers for a short ceremony. He gave a summary of Wreaths Across America program and noted Wreaths Across America began in 2008 as a part of the Arlington National Cemetery wreath project, which was started in 1992 with the annual placement of wreaths donated by the Worcester Wreath Co., located in Harrington, Main. He said the objectives of the program are to remember, honor and to teach.
“Walmart is now in its tenth year of participation and we collectively thank our military and their families for our freedom,” said Griffith.
“I proudly pass on this ceremonial wreath and ask God to take over for us and to take this mission and safely deliver our sacred cargo to honor our nation’s veterans.”
With escort lights flashing, the two Walmart drivers pulled their semi’s out of the distribution center, hauling thousands of balsam-fir wreaths with red ribbons destined for grave sites and headed to Oklahoma.