Paus given chance to honor fellow veterans
For Holcombe over-the-road trucker Mark Paus, his mission this Christmas season, was to deliver wreaths to veteran graves in cemeteries across Kansas, and that’s exactly what he did. With his faithful companion, Patches, a rescue dog from Baltimore, Md., at his side, Paus drove from St. Louis, Mo., delivering to four locations in Kansas, as part of the national Wreaths Across America campaign.
Wreaths Across America started after an 12-year-old boy visited Arlington National Cemetery and later began making extra wreaths through his family’s wreath making company. The boy told his dad he wanted to do something to remember, honor and teach about the veterans, after he watched the laying of a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier.
“At first, people were starting to pay for them (wreaths) and he said no, not for veterans,” said Paus. The campaign grew, as American Legions, VFWs and veteran cemeteries started requesting wreaths to honor the fallen soldiers. As the need grew, trucking companies got involved, including Paus’ employer, Halvor Lines, out of Superior.
“The trucking companies donate everything at no cost,” said Paus. “They (Halvor) look for the veterans we have driving for us and ask them if they would like to do it.”
Halvor Lines has helped with the deliveries since 2012, and had two trucks participate this year, with one picking up directly in Maine, and delivering to Arlington National Cemetery, while Paus, who served in the Army from 1976-82, was picked to deliver the western route.
It’s apropos that Halvor is back delivering wreaths, as the founder of the company began hauling Christmas trees, 51 years ago, in Duluth, Minn.
In the present, Paus’ first stop after picking up the wreaths in St. Louis, Mo., was to the American Legion in Lawrence, Kan., delivering 57 boxes, with nine wreaths in each. From there, Paus delivered 57 boxes to Wakefield, Kan.; 14 boxes to Glasco, Kan.; 57 boxes to WaKeeney, Kan.; and 160 boxes Fort Dodge, Kan.
“I still had room in the back of my trailer,” said Paus of carrying the more than 3,000 wreaths with Patches. “She (Patches) protected the wreaths all the way across Missouri through Kansas.”
Each wreath is about 16 inches, with a tag on the back that reads, I did my duty of remembering, honoring and teaching today, by laying this wreath.
“It was kind of an emotional roller coaster ride delivering those wreaths,” said Paus.
While his last official delivery was at 7 a.m., Friday, Dec. 13, in Fort Dodge, Kan., Paus had one last delivery to make, perhaps the most important one to him.
See HONOR FELLOW VETERANS/ Page 4
Once his truck was emptied of wreaths, Paus was sent to Dalhart, Texas, with food products bound for Tomah.
“They wanted me to route up I-35 out of Des Moines, Iowa,” said Paus, with tears in his eyes, “and I requested to be able to go out of route to go to Madison, Wis., and lay that wreath that was on the front of my truck, at my dad’s grave.”
The dispatcher answered Paus, with No problem, do it.
Paus’ father was a veteran of World War II, with the 305th Square D, 301st Bomb Group. When he reached Madison, Paus removed the wreath that had traveled all those miles the last couple days, then waited for his older brother, his sister and their spouses, to honor their beloved veteran. Unfortunately, Paus’ wife, Carol, couldn’t be there.
“It was pretty amazing that we were able to meet at the grave to do that,” said Paus. “It was really emotional the day I laid that wreath on my dad’s grave.”
Paus told Halvor Wreaths Across America coordinator Charmaine Holtz, that if the company needed him to make the deliveries again, he wanted to be part of it.
“My company is a company that takes care of their families,” said Paus. “It’s an honor to be with the company that honors and respects the veterans.”
Paus says from what he understands, the places he delivered to, will request even more wreaths next year, and that it was a very cool thing to be part of honoring the veterans.
“Like they say, I took that oath and signed it, a check that has no amount on it, to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States,” said Paus. “And that oath has never been rescinded. Once a soldier, always a solider.”