Former Air Force One Pilot’s Personal Stories of September 11 Cap off Successful Fundraising Evening


Gala attendees experience inspiring patriotic speeches and raise more than $70,000 to support Wreaths Across America’s mission to Remember, Honor, Teach

Oxon Hill, Maryland:
On Wednesday evening, trucking industry executives from across the U.S. and Canada gathered at the Gaylord National Harbor for the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) fifth annual charitable gala benefiting the nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America (WAA).
Gala attendees raised $73,583 to support WAA’s mission to Remember our fallen veterans, to Honor those who have served, and to Teach the next generation the values of patriotism. Money raised at the gala will go towards producing the more than one million remembrance wreaths delivered to veterans’ cemeteries on National Wreaths Across America Day, Saturday, December 16.
“The service of TCA members, in combination with others in the trucking industry, has grown exponentially, from 30 loads hauled in 2008 to 450 loads hauled in 2016,” said TCA President John Lyboldt. “It’s moving to see, year after year, how the trucking industry comes together to support the Worcester family and Wreaths Across America’s mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.”
The gala’s keynote speaker was Colonel Mark Tillman, pilot and commander of Air Force One from 2001-2009, including during the September 11 attacks. Tillman detailed the harrowing hours flying President Bush that day, uncertain if Air Force One itself would be targeted in the attacks. His engaging speech highlighted the courage and teamwork of all agencies and personnel responsible for ensuring the President’s safety.
A unique performance of the National Anthem was delivered by artist/vocalist Joe Everson, who painted a portrait of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima as he sang. The painting was placed in the silent auction and quickly became the big ticket item of the night, with a winning bid of $5,258.
Other notable participants included Sue Pollard, the 2017-18 president of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in service to the U.S.; Lieutenant Colonel Sid Taylor, Arlington National Cemetery chaplain, who blessed the dinner; and Morrill and Karen Worcester, of Wreaths Across America.
The largest pledge of the evening was a generous $50,000 donation from the National Association of Independent Truckers, NAIT’s insurance partners TransGuard, and IAT Insurance Group.
The gala was hosted by Freightliner and Pilot Flying J. Throughout the evening, additional donations were collected from fundraising opportunities including a photo booth sponsored by DriverFacts and the “Swag Grab” of WAA memorabilia sponsored by TravelCenters of America/Petro. There was also The Dog Tag Fundraiser, a living tribute to deceased veterans in which participants received one commemorative dog tag printed on-site and one dog tag printed in the name of a loved one who had served.
The gala took place in conjunction with TCA’s Inaugural Call on Washington as well as its Policy Committees and Board of Directors Meetings at the Gaylord National Harbor. As a special symbol of the event, the Capital Wheel at National Harbor was lit up like a remembrance wreath with a bow, shining green and red across the Potomac on Tuesday evening.
For more information about Wreaths Across America and National Wreaths Across America Day, visit To volunteer equipment or driving services, or to sponsor a load to haul the wreaths, visit You can also search the hashtag #WAAGala to view photos and updates from the event.
Photos from the event will be available to view at