Every year, truck driver Don Crouse hauls wreaths to Arlington Cemetery to honor fallen American soldiers at the Wreaths Across America event.
Tie a yellow ribbon ’round the ole oak tree
It’s been three long years, do you still want me?
If I don’t see a ribbon round the ole oak tree
I’ll stay on the bus, forget about us, put the blame on me
If I don’t see a yellow ribbon ’round the ole oak tree
But there are no yellow ribbons for those that do not come home from war.
Instead, there are Americans made of oak that carve the trunks of their lives with the names of fallen heroes and preserve their memories. Don Crouse is a man made of oak.
On December 18th every year, Don drives his truck filled with evergreen wreaths to Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C. for the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony. He’s part of almost the tens of thousands wreaths that are placed on the graves of fallen soldiers.
Arlington Cemetery is an immaculately trimmed garden of acres of white headstones. Each one is rooted in the individual stories of immense courage and sacrifice that they honor. This garden of courage is tended by volunteers that lay wreaths on their graves every year.
The acorn of this project was planted in Don while he was fresh out of high school in 1966. He learned that his classmate John Grabbe had fallen in Vietnam. Grabbe’s name was the first image that Don put on his truck. “His family is so grateful that someone remembers.”
“My wife and I lost two of our sons as teenagers. I understand the pain of our Gold Star families that have lost their children.”
Today, Don has thirty fallen soldiers’ faces as part of the wrap celebrating Wreaths Across America on his truck, including Cpl. Frank Gross’s picture:
Truck drivers are recognized as a significant part of honoring the fallen at the Wreaths Across America event– they help transport the 2.5 million wreaths were placed in 3100 cemeteries across the country and then help pass out the evergreen circlets to lines of participants. “I warn every driver that this is something you’re going to want to do every year.”
This year, Don was chosen to be a part of the special ten truck convoy that accompanies Gold Star families. (families that lost a soldier in war) He says it means a lot to the families, “to see their loved ones traveling down the road… We started in Columbia Falls, Maine with 70 units (trucks) and the Gold Star parents joined. It was unbelievable.”
This was supposed to be his last year at the Wreaths Across America event, but Gold Star mothers requested he come at least one more year.
This year’s wreath laying was also Don’s 74th birthday.
Don has made sure that the rings of the oak, the wreaths of remembrance will continue– when he stops laying wreaths Don’s company has already agreed to find a driver to replace him.
“It was the least we could do. I’ve been trucking across a free country for 48.5 years.”