It could be said that husband/wife duo of Barry and Melissa Graddick is a driving force for the all-volunteer organization, Wreaths Across America.
The Somervell county couple owns Mid-America Xpress, LLC, a trucking company that mostly hauls general dry freight, nationwide.
A landmark time each December for the Graddicks is National Wreath Laying Day — designated by Congress — which will be Dec. 14.
More than 25 years ago, the organization began its tradition of laying wreaths to honor military veterans at Arlington National Cemetery along with 1,600 other locations in all 50 states.
The stated mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach children about the high cost of freedom.
Melissa Graddick became involved because she wanted to honor the memory of her late father, Abe Sissney, who had been in the Navy SeaBees.
He died in October 2016 at 69.
He was diagnosed with multiple myoloma, which was caused by exposure to agent orange while serving in Vietnam.
Husband Barry Graddick also had military experience, serving in the Navy on a submarine.
“We got in touch with Wreaths Across America, and we’re part of their honor fleet now,” said Melissa, who is special education director for Glen Rose ISD. “It’s just a wonderful organization. I said this is an organization I can stand behind because they are such a great organization for honoring those that have lost their lives. We honor them by saying their name and place the wreath.”
The Graddicks first got involved in 2017, when they laid wreaths and donated to the organization.
In 2018, they first used one of their company trucks to drive all the way to Bar Harbor, Maine to a distribution center for Wreaths Across America.
Also part of that weekend is a meeting with Gold Star families in Ellsworth, Maine, before the trucks head out on the road. There are some wreath distribution sites closer, but the Graddicks want to experience getting to know the families of fallen military members.
“We choose to go to Maine because it’s more special and we can meet the Gold Star families and other drivers,” said Melissa, who said they moved to Somervell County from Uvalde in June 2018.
Melissa said the journey last year took them to 11 delivery sites, and there will be approximately 110 trucks involved this year.
To donate, go online (wreathsacrossamerica.org).
A donation of $15 buys one wreath, and the purchase of multiple wreaths to be donated is listed at a reduced price. The purchaser can choose on the website to have a wreath customized for placement on a specific person’s gravesite.