Dec. 13, 2019
By Matt Smith, Walmart Corporate Affairs
There are only two days of the year visitors can’t tour Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia: Wreaths-in and wreaths-out.
The wreath-laying ceremony, or “wreaths-in,” is held on Wreaths Across America Day, Dec. 14. It involves laying wreaths in front of the headstones of fallen service members, and it symbolizes their sacrifices will never be forgotten.
The holidays are an important time to remember those who’ve fallen, because many homes will have an empty seat that a loved one would have occupied. For that reason, the wreaths stay on the gravesites until the “wreaths-out” ceremony after the holidays in January.
2019 marks the 12th year Walmart has supported nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America by giving and transporting wreaths to national cemeteries via a network of its own truck drivers. This year alone, Walmart is giving cash and in-kind contributions to Wreaths Across America totaling $750,000, which includes a three-year, $450,000 corporate grant.
Many of the wreaths travel coast to coast, so getting them to their final destinations means Walmart drivers can’t rest on their laurels. A network of drivers is stationed throughout the country to keep the wreaths moving to cemeteries in 14 states and the District of Columbia.
One of those Walmart drivers is Yuma Haidara, who served in the U.S. Navy from 2007 to 2014, including two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After handing off her trailer full of wreaths to the next driver, Yuma admits to getting emotional about what it all means.
It’s so cool that I’m part of a company that cares about this. I have a lot of people I know that are buried in these national cemeteries, and I don’t want them forgotten.
Wreaths Across America was founded in 2007 by Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcestor Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine. The organization’s mission is to remember the fallen, honor service members and teach the value of freedom to the next generation.
Worcester had been donating wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery since 1992, and the evergreen movement he started continues to grow. This year, Wreaths Across America hopes to deliver over 2 million wreaths to more than 2,000 locations across the U.S.
The journey starts in Harrington, Maine, with about 100 trucks picking up wreaths in a massive kickoff ceremony on Dec. 9. Just a few miles down the road in Elsworth, Maine, the larger convoy breaks up into several smaller groups of trucks that continue their journey to various destinations.
One of these smaller convoys of Walmart trucks travels to Arlington National Cemetery where the whole movement started. This mighty convoy of four trucks makes the journey particularly special by taking the time along the way to visit veteran’s hospitals, memorial parks and public schools to help honor veterans and teach children personally.
Jenny Lovering is the general transportation manager in Walmart’s Lewiston, Maine transportation office. This is her first year coordinating Walmart’s involvement in Wreaths Across America, so she jumped at the chance to join the convoy to Arlington. While on the journey, she expressed how meaningful it is to be able to honor veterans in person. On a visit to an assisted living facility in Maine, she met two veterans who served in World War II, one of which was present at the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Their passion for their country was amazing, and both of them would do it again tomorrow if they had the chance, because they feel so strongly about protecting our freedom,” she said.