Patriotic Hearts

Patriotism lies deep in the hearts of American truckers who have served in wars. Although the memories are often painful, several truckers wanted to share their memories of combat and their thoughts on the Fourth of July holiday.

Independence Day is also Kurt Smith’s birthday. Smith, of New Haven, Conn., leases to Horseless Carriage and thinks it’s an honor to celebrate his birthday on a military holiday. He doesn’t have a big birthday celebration, but he tries to relax and reflect on the past.

“It’s not only my birthday but a great day for men who’ve given their lives or part of their life for freedom and a better tomorrow,” he says.

Roger Hogeland, an independent driver from Fontana, Calif., served as a Marine gunner on a medivac crew in Vietnam. He was a Marine for seven years, and he received three Purple Hearts.

Hogeland’s best friend was a gunner in the U.S. Army. His friend and cousin died in Vietnam, but Hogeland survived.

“The Fourth has always meant a lot to me,” Hogeland says. “Patriotism means a lot. I was on the Medivac crew that picked up my friend. My cousin also died over there. I appreciate everyone who is and will be in the military and have a high respect for them.”

Roscoe House says that the Fourth of July is celebrated in a big way in his hometown of New Orleans. He leases to Combine Transportation Systems of Valparaiso, Ind., and he served as a U.S. Army Ranger in the Evacuation Phase of the Vietnam War.

“At that time, there wasn’t much here for a young black male to do,” House says. “In the service, I received guidance and leadership. The military benefited me and gave me a lot of self pride, confidence and self esteem.”

House says that few African-Americans celebrate the holiday because they don’t feel appreciated for what they sacrificed.

“We’d started integration, and America was washing its dirty laundry,” House says. “It was a bad time in America. No one truly knows how many African-Americans were in ‘Nam. They wanted us to fight for a country where we couldn’t even go in a restaurant and order a hamburger.”

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Ron Baird of Thorntown, Ind., was trained and ready but never saw combat. He served two years as a Seabee in the U.S. Navy. Baird, a company driver for Hoffman Transport of Morris, Ill., worked in a construction battalion in which he served on the construction crew and ran heavy equipment.

“I was in the first battalion and ready to go but wasn’t sent in,” he says. “The war ended. You psyche yourself up to go whether you go or not. You see people saying goodbye at the airport. Many I was in boot camp with served in Vietnam.”

It’s been 30 years since Baird served in the miliary, and every five years, his battalion has a reunion. He lost a friend in Vietnam, and that is the reason he enlisted. This year’s reunion was on Memorial Day, but several times it’s been on the Fourth of July.

“I always go to the parade and watch the fireworks,” Baird says. “I can’t talk about it much. There are a couple of men from church that were in World War II. I call on them a lot to talk. I appreciate what the ones who fought did for me. Many don’t realize what they did or appreciate it.”

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