Event Here Tied
BY LAUREN HENRY
"It is an honor to dedicate wreaths to our lost heroes," said Charles Jordan, truck driver with Walmart Distribution.
His comment came after Wednesday morning's passing-of-the-wreaths ceremony at the Walmart Distribution Center at Midway.
The ceremony there marked the next leg in the journey for thousands of memorial wreaths destined to be placed at veterans' graves as part of Saturday's Wreaths Across America national ceremony.
"Wreaths Across America" seeks to: "Remember, Honor and Teach. Remember the fallen; Honor those who serve; Teach our children the value of freedom."
It does so through a national ceremony Saturday observed simultaneously across the nation at national cemeteries, where wreaths are laid on veterans' graves.
"This year, with the involvement of Wreaths Across America, over 700 national cemeteries will receive over 160,000 wreaths that will be placed on National Wreath Laying Day," said Brian Bragdon, Walmart general transportation manager, during Wednesday's passing-of-the-wreaths ceremony at the Distribution Center.
Walmart has donated the services of 14 tractor/trailers to transport over 75,000 wreaths to memorial ceremonies across the country as part of the company's support for Wreaths Across America and the National Wreath-Laying Day, Dec. 15, according to a news release.
Two Walmart trailer loads of balsam fir memorial wreaths were relayed through the Distribution Center in Midway.
A third trailer will remain in Greene County for delivery to the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Greeneville.
Wednesday morning's passing of the wreaths ceremony was held at the company's regional distribution center in Midway.
Attending and participating in the ceremony were members of the board of directors of Wreaths Across America, Walmart drivers and distribution employees, the Rolling Thunder motorcycle group, members of the Greeneville Jr. ROTC, the Town of Mosheim Fire Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, members of the Army National Guard, and the public.
Walmart truck driver Micheal Pruett sang the National Anthem. American Legion Chaplain Grady Barfield led the invocation and later the benedication.
Bragdon gave the history of the Wreaths Across America program.
"This is the fifth year Walmart is supporting Wreaths Across America (WAA) with logistics, manpower, and funds," Bragdon said.
WAA traces its roots back to 1992, when Worcester Wreath Company of Maine began a holiday tradition of placing wreaths on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery.
The national Wreaths Across America began in 2006 as an offshoot of the Arlington National Cemetery wreath project, according to a news release.
PASSING OF THE WREATHS
At the Midway Distribution Center, Walmart drivers from Mount Crawford, Va., passed two symbolic wreaths to members of the National Guard, who handed them off to Greene County drivers.
A wreath was also presented to Kelli Read, mother of Army Sgt. Brandon Read, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004.
One wreath will remain on display at the Distribution Center in memory of all veterans.
Attendees observed a moment of silence for veterans.
The local TN Ch. 4 Rolling Thunder motorcycle group presented a Missing Man Ceremony intended to remember and honor all prisoners of war and those missing in action.
"This is getting to be a very dignified operation and a very good thing. and it's a good thing for the community, and veterans, and everybody overall," said Rolling Thunder member Edd Hodges.
The Jr. ROTC retired the colors, and the ceremony moved outside to the trucks.
A second passing-of-the-wreaths was observed between the incoming and outgoing trucks.
The cabs crisscrossed in front of saluting Army Chief Warrant Officer Allen Castle, who stood next to the lone wreath on display.
The cabs then reconnected with the trailers full of memorial wreaths, and the journey continued, with the trucks escorted by police and national guard.
Off Bridge Burners Road near U.S. 11E, a lone Town of Mosheim fire truck hoisted an American flag over the highway for the trucks to pass under.
The next stops in the wreaths' journey are Cullman, Ala., and then Brookhaven, Miss.
The final destination is Seally, Texas, with wreaths destined for the Houston National Cemetery.
WALMART'S SPECIFIC ROLE
Thirty-six Walmart Distribution Centers and 95 drivers across the nation are involved in transporting the wreaths from Harrington, Maine, to their destinations. All of the drivers volunteer their time to transport the wreaths.
The Walmart Foundation and associates sponsored 31,000 wreaths this year. Walmart is the largest corporate supporter of Wreaths Across America and contributed a total of $450,000 this year.
Walmart is delivering wreaths to nine states, plus the District of Columbia.
According to a news release, wreaths will also be placed in remembrance of 9/11 victims in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
LOCAL EVENT SATURDAY
The national Wreaths Across America wreath-laying ceremony will be Saturday, Dec. 15, at national cemeteries across the country.
The local ceremony is open to the public and will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, on Monument Avenue in Greeneville.
Local Jr. ROTC members will lay wreaths in remembrance of deceased military veterans on Friday prior to the ceremony.
Parking will be at Hal Henard Elementary School, and buses will shuttle attendees to the cemetery.
"I'm thankful that Walmart would take a little time to represent and dedicate these wreaths to these lost heroes," said Jordan, the Walmart driver.
"It encouraged me as an American that we still care to take the time to recognize what the flag stands for.
"It is just an honor. Honor covers it all," he said.