For the Seventh Consecutive Year, Bennett Honors Fallen Veterans on Wreaths Across America 2023 at Andersonville National Cemetery

December 21, 2023

MCDONOUGH, GEORGIA (December 21, 2023) – For the seventh consecutive year, the Bennett Family of Companies and the Taylor Family Foundation took part in National Wreaths Across America Day on December 16th, 2023. Their collective efforts resulted in the placement of 20,500 wreaths covering every gravesite at Andersonville National Cemetery.

Andersonville National Cemetery

The week commenced as eight drivers from Bennett embarked on a journey to Columbia Falls, Maine, joining forces with fellow truckers to collect wreaths from the Worcester Wreath Company. Together, they distributed over 2 million wreaths to more than 4,000 participating locations throughout America, united by a singular mission – Remember, Honor, and Teach.

“The Mission of Wreaths Across America is to Remember our fallen veterans buried there, Honor those who have served, and Teach our children the value of freedom during this holiday season, a mission we hold dear.” Said Kris Rzepkowski, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Bennett Family of Companies

Upon arriving at Bennett’s headquarters in McDonough, Georgia, company executives celebrated drivers Steve and Lorraine Richardson, Allen and Kelly Dettmer, Curtis Haney, Brett and Stephanie Taylor, and James Jones and paid tribute all law enforcement personnel during the Rolling Ambassador Honor Breakfast.

After the breakfast, Bennett employees gathered in the company’s shop for the “Wreaths Across America All Warriors Remembered Ride and Convoy Rally”. The event featured the participation of Luella High School’s NJROTC who presented the colors and Strong Rock Christian School’s band, who performed the National Anthem.

During the rally, each driver took the stage to be recognized and were presented with a commemorative medal, acknowledging their outstanding service and their willingness to “route out of their standard duties for our customers to be able to serve this cause.” (Lee Gentry).

As the rally concluded, Bennett employees congregated outside, proudly waving American flags to witness specially wrapped semi-trailers honoring the US Army, Marine Corps., Navy, Wreaths Across America by Ace Doran and a trailer paying tribute to the 13 Fallen heroes that lost their lives in Kabul, Afghanistan in August of 2021.  The Rolling Ambassadors  readied themselves for departure with law enforcement escorts through Americus to Andersonville National Cemetery by the Henry County Police Department, Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Clayton County Police Department, Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office, and Sumter County Sheriff’s Department. A Vietnam-era Bell UH-1H “Huey” Helicopter, flown overhead by the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation was present to escort the convoy through Henry County. Watch footage from the convoy on Bennett’s Facebook page or Bennett’s YouTube channel.

For the first time, two Jeep groups called Wicked Jeeps and Jeep Girl Mafia played a role in the convoy. These two groups have supported Wreaths Across America for many years and reached out to Bennett Family of Companies Senior Director of Logistics Support, John McGahee. McGahee being a long-time Jeep owner himself worked with these groups who participated in fundraising efforts and joined the convoy. McGahee stated that these groups are “generous and giving” and are full of “amazing people.” A total of ten Jeeps covered in patriotic pride and Christmas decorations followed from the Bennett Home Office through Americus, Georgia to their final destination. Ride along with Wicked Jeeps throughout their inaugural convoy.

Upon reaching Andersonville National Cemetery, the wreaths were unloaded and strategically placed across the cemetery’s 27 acres to be laid at each grave the following morning by Bennett employees, families, volunteers and individuals with both past and present military affiliations.

On Saturday, December 16th, several hundred people joined together at Andersonville National Cemetery for a ceremony lead by Lee Gentry, Bennett Family of Companies Executive Vice President and Gia Wagner, Andersonville National Cemetery Superintendent. During the ceremony, Bennett Owner/Operators and drivers took the lead in presenting wreaths dedicated to the Army, Marines, Navy, Space Force, Coast Guard and those Missing in Action (MIA) or Prisoners of War (POW).

This is a very special ceremony to present a wreath in front of each flag. This is to remember all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for that Branch of service from the beginning of time.

Lee Gentry, Executive Vice President, Bennett Family of Companies

Following wreath presentations, the ceremony honored three soldiers laid to rest in 2023 at Andersonville National Cemetery:

  • Walter Jerry Riddle, CPT-US Army & A1C – US Air Force, laid to rest August 29, 2023 at Andersonville National Cemetery 
  • Desmond N. Campbell, Specialist – US Army, laid to rest June 14, 2023 at Andersonville National Cemetery 
  • Luther H. Story, CPL – US Army, Medal of Honor and MIA for 73 years, laid to rest May 29, 2023 at Andersonville National Cemetery

Once the ceremony concluded, Bennett employees, families and volunteers made their way across Andersonville National Cemetery. With deep respect and reverence, a wreath was placed on each gravesite, commemorating and paying tribute to every soldier laid to rest. This poignant act served as a lasting reminder to Remember and Honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and to Teach our youth the profound value of freedom.

To learn more about Wreaths Across America or to sponsor a wreath for 2024, visit WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA.

About Wreaths Across America

Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at more than 1,600 cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. For more information or to Sponsor a Wreath for 2023, please visit https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/GA0213.

About the Taylor Family Foundation

The Taylor Family Foundation is a private, family foundation established in 2012 by Marcia and her husband Mike Taylor. The foundation supports and provides grants geared towards family values, senior citizen care and community initiatives. The Taylor Family Foundation is a family endeavor. Their children and grandchildren join Marcia and Mike on the Board Committee. The goal of the Taylor family is to take a percentage of profits from their family business, the Bennett Family of Companies each quarter and put it towards funding honorable stewardships affecting communities nationwide. The Taylor family’s values embody their commitment to the Christian Faith, the preservation of family values, the support of children in need, quality healthcare, the value of education, and commitment to helping the elderly, women and children.

“Fundraising outreach is supported by hundreds of employees, agents, and drivers from across the country as well as the local business communities and friends and family in Henry County, and Sumter County, and other communities throughout Georgia”

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