A Devotion to Service
In his 25 years as the UPS facilities engineer in Jacksonville, Florida, Rick Garcia has been fortunate to work with a lot of wonderful people, but he holds a special admiration for district porter Sue Hiett.
“Sue does that little bit more and that says a lot to me, because it’s coming from the heart,” Rick explains.
Sue’s dedication extends well beyond UPS and is felt by countless veterans and their families in the wider Jacksonville area. When she is not fulfilling her duties at work, Sue volunteers with the local American Legion Patriot Riders, a convoy of motorcyclists that safeguards military funerals from unwanted protesters.
However, one of her biggest efforts each year is raising funds for Wreaths Across America (WAA)—a nationwide program that distributes holiday wreaths as a tribute to veterans laid to rest at VA national and local cemeteries.
“It’s a shame we have so many fallen heroes in cemeteries,” Sue says. “They’re missing holidays. It’s just the right thing to do."
Though Sue has been working with the organization for years, it’s recently taken on added personal significance.
“It’s a cause that grew [closer] to our heart when my son [Kenny] went into the Marine Corps. God, country, family, that’s what our bond is.”
A Surprise for Sue
To acknowledge her efforts, Rick asked UPS to assist Sue’s mission to lay a wreath by every headstone at the National Cemetery in Jacksonville. So, in the company of her friends and colleagues, Rick surprised Sue with the news that UPS had made a sizeable donation to WAA to reach her goal.
But there was more.
Rick then revealed that Sue would be flying with her husband, Navy veteran Gerald, to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
A Sacred Honor
Upon their arrival in Arlington, Sue and Gerald were instantly awed by the gravity and magnitude of the setting and this feeling of reverence culminated when it came time for the wreath-laying ceremony.
“As we walked down the stairs, it kept on building up and building up,” Sue described. “When I got down there and [the guard] said ‘step forward’, it was like, oh my goodness. We are really here. Overlooking all this.”
Although Kenny is currently stationed in Japan, Sue says he was with them in spirit.
“When we told our son that we were coming [to Arlington], he said, 'Do you think that you can go see my [fallen] buddy and leave a little present for me so when his family comes, they know that I’m thinking about them?'"
As she reflects on her time in Arlington, Sue will always remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
We have a bucket list and I would never even put that on the bucket list because I would never imagine that would happen. Nobody has ever done something like that for us. It was really amazing.