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Walmart drivers strive for honor of relaying wreaths for vets' graves

By JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent

December 12. 2016 8:09PM
Piper John Newman leads Walmart drivers to the Civil War monument to place wreaths during a Wreaths Across America ceremony on the Raymond town common Monday morning. (JASON SCHREIBER/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)



RAYMOND -- Walmart truck driver William Blackwood of Raymond always wanted to join the convoy of tractor-trailers that carry thousands of balsam fir memorial wreaths to national cemeteries in time for Christmas, but his name was never chosen.

This year he finally got picked to drive one of the trucks that will deliver more than 85,000 wreaths for Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization that relies on thousands of volunteers to bring the wreaths to the graves of the nation’s veterans.

“God bless America,” Blackwood said before climbing into his truck and hitting the road in one of seven trucks from the Raymond Walmart Distribution Center after a ceremony in the cool mist and newly fallen snow at the Raymond town common Monday morning.

Some 41 Walmart distribution centers and 100 Walmart drivers from around the country are helping to transport the wreaths as part of a relay from Columbia Falls, Maine, to their final destinations.

The wreaths carried in the seven trailers that made a stop in Raymond Monday morning are headed to national cemeteries in Arkansas, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas. All told, Wreaths Across America will deliver greens to 20 national cemeteries and memorial sites in 11 states.

The program began in 2008 as part of the Arlington National Cemetery wreath project, which started in 1992 with the placement of wreaths donated by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester of the Worcester Wreath Company.

Walmart is the largest corporate supporter of Wreaths Across America.

Greg Sevinsky, general manager of the Walmart Distribution Center, said the ceremony was a time to reflect and remember the nation’s fallen heroes.

“During this time of year it’s very easy to get caught up in our daily events and forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

Raymond Town Manager Craig Wheeler asked for a moment of silence in honor of veteran and former Raymond selectman and state representative Frank Bishop, who died on Nov. 24.

Bishop joined the Air Force in 1950 and served in the Korean War. He also spent 18 years as a state representative and served eight years on the board of selectmen.

Bishop, 84, led the effort to raise money to restore the Civil War monument that stands in the town common. The Walmart drivers placed wreaths around the monument during the ceremony.

Wheeler said that “without Frank’s tenacity, commitment to this country, commitment to this community, that statue would not shine as it does today. Frank single-handedly brought the reconditioning of that statue back to Raymond.”

jschreiber@newstote.com


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