BNSF helps deliver wreaths to honor fallen veterans
The holidays can be tough for those who are missing or have lost loved ones, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. So, it was with reverence and some emotion that Team BNSF helped to deliver and place wreaths on veterans’ graves as part of this year’s Wreaths Across America (WAA) event.
WAA has a mission to “Remember, Honor and Teach.” Every year since 2007, WAA has coordinated wreath-laying ceremonies at national cemeteries and other locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad. The 2022 ceremony was on Saturday, Dec. 17.
BNSF worked with J.B. Hunt to deliver the wreaths free of charge. This year, together, we moved more than 35 container loads, up from 22 last year. With about 6,500 wreaths per container, we helped transport about 227,000 wreaths.
“This is a great way to work with our customer, J.B. Hunt, as well as our country’s veterans and their families,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Matt Igoe. “Having served in the U.S. Army, I am especially proud that BNSF is able to help fulfill WAA’s goal of putting a wreath on every veteran’s grave.”
BNSF trains began moving the J.B. Hunt containers in late November from Chicago to points west, including Phoenix, Seattle and Stockton and San Bernardino, California. After arriving by train in our San Bernardino facility, on Friday, Dec. 16, the wreaths were transported by J.B. Hunt to the cemetery ahead of the Saturday ceremony.
Before the wreaths were delivered, the road into the BNSF terminal was lined with flags, and a locomotive and the container containing the wreaths were washed, with large wreaths attached to the nose of both. A U.S. flag was draped on the locomotive.
“Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our freedoms,” said Terminal Superintendent David Alves at San Bernardino. “For all that they have done for us and our country, the least we can do is rally our team around an effort to honor and show respect for them and their families for the holidays.”
The Patriot Guard, volunteers who share a love of motorcycles and respect for fallen heroes, escorted the truck from the yard to the nearby Riverside National Cemetery. Among the escort riders was locomotive engineer James Burrowes. “I’m a veteran and it just gave me a great sense of pride and filled my heart to be a part of this,” he said.
J.B. Hunt also awarded the honors of the delivery of these wreaths to a military veteran, a J.B. Hunt driver who drove the container to the cemetery.
On Saturday, BNSF employees and their families helped place the wreaths. One was Heather Santos, Human Resources manager.
“My husband is a combat veteran, and it’s important to us to always remember those who have fallen. We want to make sure that the next generation remembers the sacrifices of those before us,” she said. Her husband, their son and their daughter drove nearly two hours to participate.
Another was Lena Kent, general director, Public Affairs, whose family also has military ties. She helped organize the ceremonial exchange and brought her family to the cemetery.
“When we found out that the wreaths were going to be coming into our San Bernardino yard, and that J.B. Hunt was moving them to the cemetery, we came together to find a way to move them with the utmost respect that they deserved,” she said. “It was just amazing to see our team jump into action without hesitation.”
General Manager Rich Dennison for the California Division added: “My thanks to our employees who came out to support this shipment to San Bernardino and elsewhere. BNSF hauls a lot of gifts that go under the tree, and when people wake up Christmas morning, they may not know that our employees had a part in moving those goods and making their holiday so special. Containers full of wreaths are the gift that we can give to our veterans and their families to show them that we appreciate their service.”
Did You Know?
Wreaths Across America (WAA) began in 1992 when Worcester Wreath, located in Harrington, Maine, found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery in one of the older sections that received fewer visitors.
As WAA grew, it became a non-profit, and every year more and more wreaths have been placed on veterans’ graves. In 2008, 100,000 wreaths were placed, then 700,000 by 2014. This year an estimated 2.5 million wreaths will be delivered from Maine to more than 3,400 cemeteries. Hundreds of thousands of people volunteer for the event every year.
Many other organizations and individuals support WAA, which seeks donations for the wreaths as well as volunteers to help lay wreaths. For more information, visit the website.