Garner president recalls, looks forward to Wreaths Across America

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2013 Wreaths Across America
2013 Wreaths Across AmericaGarner Transportation truck at Arlington National Cemetery last year

Work continues on one of the most heartfelt logistics projects of the year: honoring veterans at almost 1,000 cemeteries in the U.S. and elsewhere.

That’s the undertaking of Wreaths Across America (WAA), along with trucking companies, owner/operators, volunteers and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA). Together they will transport more than 500,000 remembrance wreaths from the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Me. So they can be placed on the graves of veterans, including an expected 230,000 at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Our industry has always stepped up when asked to lend a helping hand, and the response to the www.truckloadofrespect.com website has been great so far,” said TCA President Brad Bentley. “Fleets and owner operators have signed up for 70 percent of the loads necessary to haul wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery and other locations nationwide. Now we need to secure equipment and drivers for the remaining loads to ensure successful Wreaths Across America Day ceremonies on December 13.”

One of those companies making a commitment to Wreaths Across America and the memories of those who served is the Garner Transportation Group, a truckload carrier from Findlay, Ohio.

Sherri Garner Brumbaugh is the president and CEO of the company that bears her family name, and she is as enthusiastic a booster of WAA as there is in the industry. Her company had a truck and driver in last year’s trek, and Garner will once again be part of the convoy from Maine to Arlington next month.

For Garner Brumbaugh, WAA is more than another community service project for this 54-year-old company. It’s a commitment to the men and women who served in his country’s armed forces, and she’ll be part of the week-long trip that leaves Maine Dec. 7 and arrives at Arlington Dec. 13.

Garner Brumbaugh was at Arlington cemetery last year as one of the thousands of volunteers who laid the balsam wreaths on the graves of soldiers. Talking about it today, Garner Brumbaugh recalls the day that was clearly as emotional as it was rewarding for her.

“Our truck got there the day before and was staged up Friday night,” says Garner Brumbaugh. “But, when I get there Saturday morning, I couldn’t find it. I knew the general area where it was supposed to be and walked around. I came around a corner and then I saw our truck between the graves …” Garner Brumbaugh pauses. “It was like being part of something much bigger …”

Last year, Jason Frater drove the Garner truck for WAA. An Army reservist who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Frater was in uniform as he laid wreaths on the graves of the cemetery that observes its 150th anniversary in 2015.

Another Garner vet – Mark Watson, a Navy corpsman — will drive a truckload of wreaths in the WAA convoy, and Garner Brumbaugh will travel the length of the convoy, which makes numerous stops along the way to celebrate and educate others about veterans.

Garner Brumbaugh says being part of WAA is a way for her company to support the memories of veterans, and urged her peers in the industry to join the effort.

“As Americans, we sometimes take for granted our freedoms,” says Garner Brumbaugh. “We are very fortunate to live here, and this is a way to give back.”

She acknowledges that, yes, there is an expense to the involvement at a time when costs are going up and margins are thin. But, she says, it’s worth it.

Sherri Garner Brumbaugh shares her photos from last year’s wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery: