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Wreaths Across America

Wreaths rest against headstones at Arlington National Cemetery as Wreaths Across America places remembrance wreaths on headstones at the cemetery in Arlington, Va., Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017.

WATERLOO — The holiday season inspires goodwill, and a trucking company in Waterloo is extending that goodwill to honor veterans.

Gray Transportation last week transported free of charge a trailer of wreaths from Maine to the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. On Saturday, the wreaths were placed on the graves of fallen U.S. veterans.

The trip is part of the annual Wreaths Across America event, which places wreaths on veterans’ graves at more than 1,400 locations during holiday season.

“Every year this company up in Maine donates all the wreaths for the national cemeteries in the U.S., (including) Alaska, Puerto Rico and Hawaii,” said Leland Burch, Gray Transportation driver manager and recruiter. “They leave a wreath on every single veteran’s tombstone.”

Last week, Gray sent a driver to pick up a trailer full of wreaths in Maine to make the more than 2,000-mile trip to Texas.

A wreath ceremony took place Saturday morning at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. Burch said Gray Transportation chose the Texas cemetery because Leroy Gray, the brother of Gray Transportation’s owner David Gray, is buried there.

A Waterloo native, David Gray was a master sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and served during the Vietnam era. He died in 2015.

More than 500 trucking companies nationwide participated in the event.

“It’s a completely voluntary thing,” Burch said.

This the first year Gray Transportation participated. Next year it hopes to help provide wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., Burch said.

“We’re not looking for any fundraising or anything like that,” he said, noting the company just wants to do something to honor the nation’s veterans.

Locally, the company already does with its staff. Sixty-four percent of Gray Transportation employees are veterans. That’s up from 30 percent just eight months ago.

“We’re definitely focused on getting veterans hired here,” said Burch, a Marine veteran.

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