Wreaths Across America's Trucking Tributes Presents Kevin Byrnes with UPS and ATA

Professional drivers and trucking companies give so much to the nation. Without them, the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach would be nearly impossible. 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 2023, to be specific, 717 truckloads of wreaths were delivered, representing 332 different carriers and partners.

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 2024, with over 4,200 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 in the “Trucking Tributes” feature online and on Wreaths Across America Radio and Sirius XM, Channel 146, Road Dog Trucking.

Kevin Byrnes is a professional driver for UPS. He is also a military veteran who entered the U.S. Marine Corps upon completing high school. “I went into the military and served in the Marine Corps from 1982-1986. I didn’t see combat, but I’m very proud of my service, and it helped form me into the person I am today. I hate to admit this, but going into the Marine Corps, I was a Momma’s boy, but I did a lot of growing up, and it turned me into a man willing to stand by my convictions, and I can take constructive criticism pretty well.”

While Kevin was grateful for his military service, he chuckled, recalling how he was encouraged to join up. “I was a field radio operator, you know, the one you’d see in the movies hit the beach with a radio on his back and a big antenna. It was kind of funny, you know, I decided on Communications, and my recruiter was like, yeah, hey, you want to talk on the radio, right? It’s like being a DJ, and when I got into school for it, they explained the life expectancy of the guy hitting the beach was about six and a half seconds because we were the first ones the enemy would aim at, and usually seeing the radio guy indicated there were command soldiers on either side of you. They told me I could move into infantry, but I said I want to stay right where I am, and I had an outstanding career in the Marine Corps.” Kevin shared that one of the most exciting times he experienced during his military service, aside from traveling, actually involved driving. “I was with a tank unit for about a year, and I got to drive an M60 A1 Tank, which was very cool and a lot of fun.”

Kevin is an ambassador for the trucking industry as a member of the ATA’s America’s Road Team program. “We attend a variety of events,” Kevin shared of the responsibilities as an America’s Road Team Captain. “We could be at the White House, as I was two years ago, or at a grammar school for a Touch-a-Truck event, or a Share the Road event where we’ll put people up in the seat and teach them about our blind spots and how to drive around large trucks. We’ll talk to legislatures about legislation.”

It was the ATA who got Kevin involved with the mission of Wreaths Across America. “I had heard of Wreaths Across America about a year before I got involved, and I remember thinking it was a phenomenal program that’s been started. I jumped at the chance to get involved. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe in words the emotions I experienced on that convoy. The people that you meet and the Gold Star families. Sons, brothers, daughters, it was just so much, and in just a week. The other drivers on that convoy, we’re still in touch with one another. It’s like an instant family.”

Kevin and another driver picked up a trailer in Virginia and headed for Maine to drive the ATA Share the Road Truck in the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery in 2023. Kevin expressed how difficult it was to choose a favorite moment from all his experiences, but then an image came to mind. “I’m going to try not to get too emotional here, but I think it was Monday morning of the escort, and it was cold and raining. We were going through a small town in Maine, and the school kids were out waving flags. There were about five or six, I want to say fifth-grade boys, standing there in a position of attention, saluting the convoy. It just, well, showed me some parents were teaching their kids the right way, and it made me feel like the world wasn’t so bleak. We’ve got a promising future ahead when parents teach their kids what it means, and that freedom isn’t free.”

Kevin represents UPS and ATA as a member of the Wreaths Across America Honor Fleet, and he shares an important safety reminder for all motorists traveling the highways. “Put the phone down, put the makeup down, or the book down, or whatever it is that you’re doing other than driving, stop it. You can live without whatever it is while you’re driving. It’s the difference between life and death.”

Thank you, Kevin, UPS, and ATA, for helping to support the mission to remember, honor, and teach.

If you’d like to join the Wreaths Across America Honor Fleet, you can get started with a click right here!

You can hear more with Kevin on Trucking Tributes, listened to every Truckin’ Tuesday at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM EST on Wreaths Across America Radio and Fridays at 8 AM EST, on Sirius XM Channel 146, Road Dog Trucking Radio.

Discover the Trucking Tributes archive playlist on Soundcloud.com