Vince Strupp of Hartford, Wis., remembers meeting an owner-operator couple from Maine last December. They were all parked, preparing to deliver wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. He learned they had been part of the effort for eight years.
“They told me each year they go into Arlington, take a wreath and place it on their son’s grave,” recalls Strupp, who is leased to Spoerl Trucking, based in Ixonia, Wis. “After they told me that, I was speechless. So it’s my turn to give something back.”
Strupp is giving back by joining with dozens of other drivers to deliver wreaths this year, which is the 150th anniversary of Arlington.
The Truckload Carriers Association, one of the biggest supporters of Wreaths Across America, has a goal to cover all 235,000 headstones at Arlington, said TCA Executive Director Brad Bentley. That would require 66 truckloads of wreaths.
A record 143,000 headstones were covered at last year’s event, which drew 30,000 people. Another big crowd is expected for this year’s Dec. 13 wreath-laying.
Trucks will be brought to Arlington Dec. 12 and drivers will be honored at a dinner that evening. Here is the schedule for both days.
You still can be part of the initiative by applying for a route or buying a wreath for your truck or for placement at Arlington.
In some cases, donors will help sponsor loads for owner-operators who need to have fuel and toll costs covered. “We didn’t want them to have to come off the road and cost themselves income,” Bentley said.
The wreaths placed at Arlington, as well as at many other military cemeteries, won’t decorate the graves of any of Stupp’s relatives, though he has close ties to the military. His wife, Judy Stupp, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1968 to 1992. His father, Paul Strupp, received a Purple Heart during World War II.
“I had six very close friends that are on the Vietnam (Veterans) Memorial wall,” he said, who served with the U.S. Army, though not in Vietnam. Now, with Wreaths Across America, “It meant so much that I was able to give something back.”
The nature of the driving profession, especially for those in long-haul, doesn’t leave much time for contributing to one’s community or a special cause. For many, too, it doesn’t provide much in the way of extra income, especially for those with a family, to financially support worthy charities.
That’s one reason it’s so encouraging to see Strupp and other owner-operators, as well as generous fleets, increasingly supporting projects such as Wreaths Across America. Likewise, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Truckers for Troops raises money every year to send care packages to military personnel stationed overseas.
Though most truckers are not vets, they share with them a special bond of what it means to spend long periods of time away from home, quietly serving in the support of others. That owner-operators and fleets are so willing to give – whether a little or a lot – shows a keen appreciation for those who gave all they could.