Arkansas Trucking Association

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Up Front- Remembering the Empty Seats


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

This time of year, there’s a lot of pressure to spend weeks (and your whole paycheck) shopping for and wrapping holiday gifts for your family, but in the minutes after all the presents are opened, bellies full of chocolate oranges and surrounded by a small mountain of crumpled reindeer paper and ribbon, we can forget that the most expensive gift is the one we sometimes take for granted—living in a free country.

For all the reasons to love the holidays—presents, parties, your kids in matching pajamas on Christmas morning—the expectation to make merry and have an abundance of joy is not always the reality for the families who have an empty seat at the dinner table. The songs tell us to trim up the tree and deck the halls, but there’s a melancholy about the season for anyone remembering loved ones who have laid down their lives for us to freely celebrate whatever holidays we want.

This year, the Arkansas Trucking Association had the opportunity to recognize the brave men and women who have paid for our freedom. The Wreaths Across America program is a movement to honor, remember and teach families about the ultimate sacrifice. A wreath factory that grows their own fragrant Balsam donates thousands of wreaths. Then hundreds of volunteer truck drivers deliver fresh evergreen to veteran cemeteries around the country, where volunteers lay the wreaths against tombstones and say aloud the names etched in stone from wars past and present.

Arkansas Road Team Captain Mark Buckley, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1979 to 1987, recently drove to Columbia Falls, Maine, to pick up the red-ribboned laurels for veteran graves in Memphis, Birdeye and Jonesboro.

What started as a single ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery has grown to over 1200 sites in all 50 states, made possible by Worcester Wreath Company, more than 150 volunteer trucking companies, and citizens that give up a Saturday morning of shopping for gifts to show their gratitude for the gifts we already have—freedom, so richly paid for in violence and sacrifice and love.

Buckley was joined in Birdeye by fellow Road Team Captains Danny Fuller and Otto Schmeckenbecher, who served in the Marine Corps from 1981 to 1985 and 1967-1968 respectively, to unload the wreaths and pay respects.

In an industry where 25 percent of the workforce is made up of veterans, I’m not surprised to see drivers eager to recognize the service of fallen military.

Proud would be a better word. Or grateful, to work alongside those who have served our country and who continue to carry light, love, freedom, and even presents on those 18-wheelers.

On Christmas morning, when I’m surrounded by my own mountain of reindeer paper and the contents of stockings are scattered around my feet, I will be remembering those who have an empty seat at their table and whispering prayers of thankfulness for my freedom.

Contact Us

Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Suite 185
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
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