Professional drivers and trucking companies give so much to the nation. With them, the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach is possible. Veterans’ wreaths move by planes, trains, ships, and livestock trailers, but trucks and their professional drivers transport the lion’s share of America’s respect. In 2022, to be specific, 609 truckloads of wreaths were delivered, representing 439 different carriers.
In November and December, one of the busiest periods of the year for the transportation sector, the Wreaths Across America mission brings drivers together in an effort of unparalleled unity. With a positive, “can-do” work ethic, these professionals make it possible for Americans to honor millions of veterans laid to rest at home and overseas. In 2023, with over 3,700 participating locations, in addition to Arlington National Cemetery, transportation logistics are immense.
Many of these drivers are military veterans and say the truckload of fresh balsam-fir wreaths is the most precious cargo they transport in their careers. Wreaths Across America shares their stories of what motivates them to serve and succeed in the “Trucking Tributes” featured online and on Wreaths Across America Radio.
Serving in the military is “a family tradition,” according to James Nalin, U.S. Army veteran and professional driver for Cedar Rapids Steel Transport (CRST) out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. James served for eleven years as a Mobile Transport Operator. “Both of my grandfathers served in the Air Force,” James shared. “My father, two of his brothers and one sister served in the military, my sister served in the Air Force, and my daughter will enter the Navy. We need to serve our country the best we can, and this was how we needed to do it. My favorite part of service was the camaraderie I had with my battle buddies over there we always had each other’s back. Transitioning out was tough because when that uniform came off, the camaraderie started to fade. You weren’t physically close anymore, so you couldn’t just say hey, ‘I need your help with this.’”
There was just something about big trucks that caught James’s attention when he was a kid.
“I told my mother that when I got older, I would drive a big truck one day, and here I am, driving one of the best trucks out there. CRST gave me this beautifully wrapped veteran’s truck last year at the Mid-America Trucking Show, and they told me that I was going to Maine to pick up a load of wreaths. Then I realized it was for Wreaths Across America. That was the most precious load I’ve ever hauled because of the meaning behind it. I’ve hauled Abrams tanks, but this load of wreaths carried far more of the weight of the nation than any one tank. There’s nothing more important than supporting our fallen.”
The rig was showcased again this year at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. The truck was fantastic, but James’s dash held many eye-catching keepsakes, too, including his grandfather’s folded flag. “I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandparents, and this was the best way I could honor him and help him see the country.” Nestled among the flag and some patriotic Beanie Babies, the Wreaths Across America Lego-compatible toy truck set was proudly displayed. “My wife will tell you straight out that I’m the one who put that together the night before the show,” James chuckled.
In addition to hauling veterans’ wreaths for CRST, James and Glenda support Wreaths Across America locally as volunteers.
You can hear more from James on Trucking Tributes, listened to every Truckin’ Tuesday, exclusively on Wreaths Across America Radio at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM ET.