Channel 19

Todd Dills

Hats off for heroes at Fort Sam Houston. . .

| January 05, 2011

My Truckers News Exit Only column this month details the long efforts of Marten Transport driver Candy Bass to grow a program she designed several years ago to send a positive message to wounded veterans of U.S. wars — namely, that American truck drivers haven’t forgotten about them.

This year the annual program of hat donation, as I detailed in the magazine and in a previous post to the blog here, at upward of 1,500 hats well exceeded previous years’ levels, and after a circuitous process and route involving Bass; a Trucker Buddy liaison in Grand Island, Neb., to a group of Special Olympians; a local American Legion; independent owner-operator Howard Salmon and, finally, Con-way Truckload driver Bill Compton (pictured, during the hats’ first load’s final delivery, with a soldier) and other carrier staff members, the hats were delivered the first of December.

“I think doing a service to the servicemen who go overseas and fight” is an honor, says 72-year-old Compton, a longtime company driver and, until 1997, 17-year owner-operator with Con-way TL, formerly CFI. The Joplin, Mo., resident got the opportunity to make the final hats run by the coincidence of a regular Missouri-to-Laredo run the near 4-million-mile hauler was on, which took him by the San Antonio, Texas, location of Fort Sam Houston’s Warrior and Family Support Center, the final destination. “So many of [the servicemen] don’t get to come home,” he adds, “and we need to honor our veterans and our country. People forget we live in a free land — if we don’t stand up and express our freedoms, we may not be living in a free country long.”

Compton says the experience was such that, over the holidays, he went through his house and rounded up all the hats he’s collected over the years. “He and his wife are going to vacation in Texas this week,” says Tera Lankard, communications rep for Con-way Truckload, “so they are planning to make a trip to the medical center to deliver more hats! Additionally, Con-way is also sending hats along that didn’t get delivered on the first trip.”