Pictured: Teresa Wade (left) and Joanne Jones at a Wreaths Across America educational event.
For Heritage Transport truck drivers, hauling loads across the country is nothing new. For the past five Decembers, select Heritage drivers have carried a special load: thousands of wreaths to be laid on veterans’ graves across the country.
Wreaths Across America began in 1992 with a mission: To remember veterans, honor those who serve and teach future generations the value of freedom. In 2016, Heritage Transport sent two trucks to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Joliet, Illinois, a meaningful site for members of the Heritage family whose loved ones are buried there.
“Most everyone has a veteran in their life, and this is our way of saying thank you for the freedom that we have today,” said Teresa Wade, Asset Management Coordinator at Heritage Environmental Services. “It touches my heart because my husband is retired military, so this is a big part of my life.” Wade comes from a family of servicepeople, including her father, nephews and twin brother. The Heritage Group is proudly home to hundreds of veterans, including Fred Fehsenfeld, Sr., former CEO and the second in The Heritage Group’s four generations of family leadership.
“The motto of Wreaths across America is to remember, honor and teach. We’re remembering the soldiers and honoring them, and teaching our children the importance of our freedom.” – Teresa Wade, Asset Management Coordinator at HES
Although the initiative is nation-wide, Heritage’s involvement hits close to home. Each year, more employees get involved, not only by donating to purchase wreaths but by volunteering to lay them in their local cemeteries. This year, seven HES locations will be laying wreaths, including those near Toledo Memorial Park Cemetery and Mausoleum in Ohio and National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in western Pennsylvania, where active Heritage managers were called to serve overseas. Employees from all over the company’s 26 locations have donated, and Indianapolis locations have hosted various fundraising events throughout the years. “This is our goal: to one day have donated as many wreaths as we transport,” said Joanne Jones, HES’s Sustainability Leader.
The drive itself, spanning from Columbia Falls, Maine, to one of 2,500 national cemeteries, is an honor shared by nine Heritage drivers so far. “It’s a privilege for the drives to haul the loads. You have a lot of drivers that request it,” said Jones.
“We let our veterans volunteer first, and then we have a lot of drivers that aren’t veterans, but their family members are. They want to do their part—they’re really big supporters. So they also had the opportunity to go,” added Wade.
“We like to honor our veterans, and include them, and show them that we care.” – Joanne Jones, Sustainability Director at HES
National Wreaths Across America Day—a Saturday in December when tens of thousands of volunteers lay wreaths in cemeteries across the nation—has become a Heritage family affair. This year, Jones, Wade and their families will be traveling to Arlington to volunteer, where they’ll join military parent and HES Senior Vice President Angie Martin and her husband.
“We all really care about this charity and so many people—everyone that donates, everyone that lays wreaths—has a story to tell about their family, and that’s why they continue to support it. That goes to the whole Heritage family culture that we have, and family values,” Jones said. “I’m just proud to belong to a company that is so supportive of this cause,” Wade added. “It just means so much to me.”
To donate to HES’s Wreaths Across America page by sponsoring a wreath, visit https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/social/IN0127-HeritageEnvironmentalServices?Sid=166306|14720|0|1.
To read about two of The Heritage Group’s veterans, visit https://thgrp.com/a-reunion-to-remember/.