Volunteers representing Interstate, Carlile, TOTE Maritime, Foss, and Saltchuk corporate home marked National Wreaths Across America Day with local tributes
By Hilary Reeves
Forty employee volunteers gathered in four Western Washington cemeteries Saturday to honor fallen veterans by placing holiday wreaths on their graves. The tribute – one of 1,100 coordinated wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, across the country, at sea, and abroad – marked National Wreaths Across America Day for employees at Interstate Distributor, Carlile, TOTE Maritime, Foss Maritime, and Saltchuk corporate home.
At Evergreen-Washelli Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Seattle, 2,000 wreaths were laid. Another 90 were placed on veteran graves at nearby Lake View Cemetery. The cemetery on Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), south of Tacoma, saw 900 wreaths.
But it was the 1,265 wreaths laid at the Washington Soldiers Home Cemetery in Orting, a small town northeast of the base, that truly embodied the spirit of Wreaths Across America to Scott Manthey, who spearheaded this year’s efforts.
“It’s sort of a forgotten cemetery, and we don’t want anyone forgotten,” said Manthey, Interstate’s Vice President of Safety and Compliance. “I drive by it every day. There’s a quote that says a solider dies twice: once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken. When we place the wreaths, we say their names aloud.”
The origins of Wreaths Across America date back to 1992. That December, Maine business owner Morris Worcester of Worcester Wreath Co. found himself with a surplus of wreaths. Remembering the trip he took to Arlington cemetery as a boy, he contacted Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, who alongside a legion of Maine volunteers helped coordinate the delivery of Worcester’s extra wreaths to graves in one of the older, overlooked sections of the cemetery.
In 2005, a photo of wreath-laden grave sites covered in snow received national press. Thousands of requests poured in from companies and individuals and companies wanting to emulate Morris’s tribute.
Last year, 168 transportation and logistics companies volunteered to deliver more than 300 loads of wreaths, including Interstate. Manthey has been involved since 2009.
“It’s a big deal for us,” he said. “My first exposure to the event was at a Truckload Carriers Association conference years ago. Baylor Trucking did a presentation; it was very moving. From that point on, I volunteered my time.”
Manthey later approached Interstate and was given the green light to utilize the company’s resources to help haul wreaths from Maine to Virginia and back to Western Washington.
“For us, being right outside JBLM and having so many veterans here, it’s a very special event.”
Manthey said it’s an honor to be selected to drive the special, decorated trucks that transport wreaths the from Maine. Once Interstate was selected to send drivers, it developed an in-house selection process that gives preference to veterans. Two Interstate drivers are selected each year. This year’s drivers were David McFadden, a Navy veteran who served aboard the U.S.S. Virginia, transported wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery; and Josh Roddenberry, who served more than eight years including two tours in Afghanistan as an Infantry Paratrooper in the U.S. Army, brought them home to Western Washington.
“The true heroes are the ones who served our nation, and even gave their lives for us without asking for fame or fortune,” McFadden said.
Roddenberry added that representing Interstate’s military veterans and the company itself was paramount.
Josh Roddenberry who served two tours in Afghanistan was selected as one of the two drivers to transport wreaths from Maine this year.“It wasn’t ‘just another load,’” he explained. “It was the most important load of my driving career so far.”
For Manthey, the continued support of Interstate and Saltchuk lends to the feeling of community.
“When I first asked (Interstate CEO Marc Rogers) about participating, he could have said ‘no,’ but he didn’t. And Saltchuk’s support is so important. When you talk about a good place to work and giving back to the community – again, you think about Saltchuk allowing us to do this, and being an active participant.”
Manthey said special thanks was in order for everyone who participated in the local event.
Meanwhile, the long drive to Maine gave McFadden plenty of time to reflect on the importance of the day, and the sacrifices made by veterans around the world.
“The way I see it is this: my name is David Warren McFadden. They don’t know me, but they love me enough to die for me. We should all be eternally grateful for and never forget their names.”