Owner-op's vets-tribute FLD and Kentucky trailer, and its story of sacrifice, achievement and hope

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Here’s a big Merry Christmas to everybody with this week’s edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast. We're dropping in on quite an experience Overdrive Executive Editor Alex Lockie had just a little more than a week ago at the Danbury, Connecticut, stop on the Wreaths Across America convoy tour from Maine down to Arlington National Cemetery for the big central wreath-laying event. It's but one among thousands around the country at veterans’ cemeteries that pay respect to those who’ve served the nation.

As regular readers may well remember from his reporting last week, Lockie there met Hampton Roads Moving and Storage owner-operator Steven Meyer and his 1998 Freightliner FLD, pulling a custom wrapped Kentucky trailer of his own design and dedicated to honoring distinct individuals whose histories encompass well more than the past 150 years of U.S. history.

Owner-operator Steven Meyer's 1998 Freightliner and Kentucky trailerMeyer walks listeners from left to right through all five of the featured men and women on the trailer in the podcast.

Together, through Meyer's narration, their distinctions tell a story of achievement, of sacrifice, and ultimately of elemental things about human nature. For both men in the moment, as you'll hear in the podcast, it all adds up to a measure of hope for the future of humanity.

Trucking is such a huge part of the story of Wreaths Across America, with countless owner-operators, drivers, and motor carriers all donating time and effort to not just that central Maine to Arlington convoy but delivering the goods to all the quieter events across the country.

That’s to say nothing of the myriad of trucking families also participating in the ceremonies with others around the nation -- or privately. Overdrive contributor and retired owner-operator Gary Buchs sent along a picture of his extended family with a wreath at the resting place of his uncle, Keith Buchs, at the township cemetery in Birmingham, Ohio.

Keith Buchs' headstoneKeith Buchs served as a machinist in the Navy in World War II, in the engine room of what was known as an LST (“Landing Ship, Tank”) in support of smaller amphibious ships.Keith was Gary Buchs’ father’s oldest brother, and lived a long life after his service in World War II, passing just a year shy of 80 in the year 2000.

Remembering the history of those who served and passing that history along to the next generations is fundamentally the mission of Wreaths Across America. Here’s thanks to Gary for the honor of knowing at least a small part of Keith Buchs’ story.

Hear much more to that effect from owner-operator Meyer in the podcast. 

Steven Meyer Trailer

Transcript

Todd Dills: Here's a big Merry Christmas wish to everybody to start off this week's edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast. December 23rd, 2022, just a couple of days ahead of the holiday. I'm Todd Dills. And today, we're going to drop in on quite an experience Overdrive executive editor Alex Lockie had just a little more than a week ago at the Danbury, Connecticut, stop on the Wreaths Across America Convoy Tour from Maine down to Arlington National Cemetery, the big central wreath laying event there. But it's just one among thousands around the country at Veterans Cemeteries designed to pay respect to those who served the nation.

Lockie, there, met Hampton Roads Moving and Storage owner-operator Steven Meyer in his late-1990s Freightliner FLD, putting a custom-wrapped trailer of his own design and dedicated to honoring distinct individuals who, together, tell a story of achievement and sacrifice and ultimately, of elemental things about human nature that for me and for both men in the moment, as you'll hear, put out and deliver a measure of hope for the future of humanity.

Trucking is such a huge part of the story of Wreaths Across America with countless owner-operators, drivers, motor carriers, donating time and effort to, not just that central Maine to Arlington Convoy, but all the quieter events all across the country, that's the say nothing of the myriad of trucking families also participating in the ceremonies with others around the nation or privately.

Overdrive contributor and retired owner-operator, Gary Buchs, sent along a picture of his extended family with a wreath at the resting place of one Keith Buchs in Birmingham, Ohio's township cemetery. Keith Buchs served as a machinist in the Navy in World War II in the engine room of what was known as an LST or tank landing ship in support of smaller amphibious ships. He was at Normandy. Much like my grandfather Vincent Bill Dills, who was on a destroyer in the Pacific, Gary tells me that his uncle Keith Buchs never much talked about the war experience with many in the family. Keith was Gary Buchs' father's oldest brother and lived a long life after the war, passing just shy of 80 in the year 2000.

Remembering the history of those who served, passing that history along to the next generations is fundamentally the mission of Wreaths Across America. Here's thanks to Gary for the honor of knowing, at least a small part, Keith Buchs' story. And more to that effect, after a quick break for a word from Overdrive Radio sponsor, you'll meet a few more heroes with owner-operator Steven Meyer as he walks us through the stories of the figures depicted on his trailer with Overdrive's Alex Lockie. Find a picture of the trailer itself via the post that houses this podcast, overdriveonline.com/overdrive-radio, and likewise, in Alex Lockie's reporting from the event, find the link to that story in show notes. Keep tuned for more.

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Todd Dills: That's Howes, H-O-W-E-S, howesproducts.com. Here's owner-operator Steven Meyer starting at the back of the Kentucky trailer on a tour through 150 more years of US history.

Steven Meyer: So now, this is a trailer of my own design. We worked on it, me and Mike, related to the founder of Wreaths Across America, and he actually printed all this and wrapped it for me. It's a couple years old now. But the program is Remember, Honor, Teach, right? But it means something different to me. Remember the veterans no longer here, and remember the fallen ones. Honor those that have served, serving and those that have served. And then, teach our children the value of freedom and the history of the country. All right.

So that right there is Loretta Walsh and she's actually the first woman that was ever allowed to serve in the United States military that wasn't a nurse. She was in the Navy. And if you look at that, that was in 1917. And if you look at that picture, she's actually leaning on a cannon. She passed away in 1929 of tuberculosis. She's buried in in Pennsylvania. But April 22nd is actually her birthday, and April 22nd is actually named after her at the Naval Academy.

So then now we're going to go here. Now this is trucking related. That right there is Mr. Paul Arpin, Paul Arpin of Paul Arpin Van Lines. So Paul Arpin, that is Paul Arpin Van Lines and then turned into Arpin Van Lines. But they were out of West Warwick, Rhode Island. He's actually a D-Day survivor, second wave. He went in there the second wave on the boat, so yes, he stormed the beach second wave.

In 2010, he was 89 years old, he actually fell down the stairs, broke his hip, he just couldn't recover and that's what took him out. And then, it turned into Arpin Van Lines.

This right here, this is Alwyn Cashe. Now his Silver Star was just upgraded to a Congressional Medal of Honor last year. But this guy, in 2005, October 17th, this is 2005, this man right here pulled six of his soldiers out of a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle while he himself was burning to death. He passed away two weeks later in San Antonio, Texas in the burn unit. He was burned over 90% of his body. But let me tell you this about him, he was in the gunner's position in the Bradley and that's what kind of throws people off. He was the commander of two Bradleys, but the reason he was in the gunner's position, Alex, is because his Bradley that he was always in, it was actually broke down in the garage, and he saw those two Bradleys leaving and he actually stopped them and took over the gunner's position because he wanted to go with his men.

And the out of the six guys that he pulled out of the Bradley, three of them passed away before he did. And the infection overtook his body. But I also, personally believe, from what I know of the man, and I never met him personally, but just by talking to everyone around him, he actually, probably, died of a broken heart probably because he felt he let down his men. So he definitely deserved the Congressional Medal of honor. But that's why I got him in the middle and that's why the Gold Star, I realize it kind of looks yellow, but the Gold Star there, see, that's your remember.

Now we're going to go to the honor. Now this one's going to throw you off the loop, but remember what I said about what the program means to me. This right here is Ho Lee, and he's actually a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, and he's stationed at Quantico as we speak. He's a finance student and stuff. But at the end of the day, this man right here's a marine, that makes him a rifle man, that means that this guy can get down, get busy right now. You see what I'm saying? And this is actually the son-in-law of the founder of Wreaths Across America, but that's my honor. Right.

Todd Dills: Meyer then walked down the lineup of figures on the side of the moving trailer to Olga Custodio.

Steven Meyer: She's actually the first female, Hispanic fighter pilot. And she's actually the first female, Hispanic United Airlines pilot. And she's retired, she's 70 years old. She lives in San Antonio, Texas. She's from Puerto Rico.

And there's your honor. And then, teach. Now that's Joshua Chamberlain. You ever heard of Chamberlain's Army? You have heard the term, you just don't know about him.

But anyway, he held Lee off, with his troops, west of Gettysburg. Right. He was the general in charge of The 20th Maine Regiment. He was actually an academic. His father told me, "I could get you an appointment to West Point." He said, "No, I want to go into the ministries. I want to follow the ministries and I want to go to college." He was actually an academic. And he actually led The 20th Maine Regiment. He's the 33rd governor of Maine. He's a Medal of Honor recipient. He was actually wounded in combat and he actually forced himself to remain standing on his saber or tree or something, I can't remember exactly what it was, but I read in his memoirs, he said if he would've fell, he knew all of his men would've tuck tail and ran.

This guy was that, you would say a liberal. You know what I mean? He believed all men was created equal and all that. And he told the guys, when they gave them all the deserters, they said, "Here, you have all the deserters, Chamberlain's army, you have all the deserters," he said, "Listen, you guys disgraced yourself, you disgraced your families, you disgraced your towns, you disgraced everything. I'm going to give you a chance to redeem yourself," because he knew he needed them to help him fight.

Now I'll step back here, Alex, real quick. And if I was better rested, I would better tell this story, trust me bro. Okay. But when you look at this trailer, Alex, what do you see?

Alex Lockie: I see a bunch of different people from different backgrounds.

Steven Meyer: Don't you? The diversity of America. That's what I wanted to capture. And this was three years ago. This is before all the craziness that's going on in the country. You see, that is the diversity of America, bro. You know what I mean? That's what I want to achieve.

Todd Dills: The figures on Meyer’s Kentucky trailer are diverse in background, sure, but as Lockie pointed out there and in his story from the scene at the Wreaths Convoy stop in Danbury, Connecticut last week, they're all representing the same story ultimately, sacrifice for the common good, heroes Meyer and Lockie both called them.

The trailer cuts a fine picture hooked to the fifth wheel of Meyer's 1998 Freightliner FLD120. He's not done yet with further plans for the tractor in hand. Meyer wasn't there in Danbury for the display of his truck alone of course, he opened the rear doors for Lockie then.

Steven Meyer: Do you smell that? That's how my trailer is going to smell for the next two months.

Alex Lockie: It's probably as good as any trailer smells.

Steven Meyer: True. So each side, I've collected a lot of pictures of movers, so on one side of my tractor, the box is going to have faces like this, not as big. Then on the back of it, I'm going to have law enforcement officers that were killed in the line of duty that were veterans, that's going to be on the back of the truck. And then, that side, I mean, there's going to be some people within the trucking industry that I know of that were veterans, 'cause where would we be without them?

Todd Dills: Where would we be indeed without each other? Meyer and Lockie then came to a point of reflection on the capacity for heroism within humanity. Meyer wrapped that up with a return back to the center of the trailer and the image of Sergeant First Class Alwyn C. Cashe, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Steven Meyer: They ran over an IED, it was covered in diesel fuel. This man ran back and on fire and pulled all them guys out of that Bradley while he was burning to death. You know what I'm saying? You would've done the same thing, I would've done the same thing because in that moment in time, Alex, those were our brothers. Those would've been our brothers.

Alex Lockie: That's right.

Steven Meyer: You know what I'm saying? You would've done it without thought. I cannot help but believe that of every human being I look in the eyes, I just can't help but think that, I got to.

Todd Dills: Thanks to Steven Meyer for telling his story. To take us out to the end then some considered words from the Connecticut Wreaths event, Gold Star mother Jean Mariano.

Speaker 5: Our next speaker, Gold Star mother, Jean Mariano. Her son, Jason D. Lewis, was killed during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq in July of 2007. Please welcome Ms. Mariano.

Jean Mariano: Hi. As he said, I am Jean Mariano and I am a Gold Star mom. Jason was a Navy Seal from Brookfield and he was killed July 6th, 2007, which you're probably thinking, "Wow, such a long time ago, you would think she's kind of got her act together," not so much.

I became the location leader for Center Cemetery in New Milford, Connecticut. And I've been doing it for about 14 years. And I fundraise all year so that we can place a wreath for every single veteran in Center Cemetery, which is about 700 wreaths. Okay. And it's not me, I'm the little mouthpiece who goes to car shows and different things and I need people. And when they realize what it's about, they'll put $10 in the jug or a couple of dollars or we'll talk, or I have a picture of Jason and they will ask questions, things like that.

And Wreaths Across America, I found them because I didn't realize they existed and I immediately wanted our cemetery to be honored with their wreaths. All right. And so, there are so many lives, both locally and across the country, that these tractor trailers that are donating their time, the employees to drive there, they're doing that free of charge. And when they go to Arlington, there's going to be so many, thousands and thousands of wreaths that are going to be placed.

And it's all about remembering our veterans, honoring the teaching. The ones who have no idea what this is about. I mean, if you came to my ceremony on Saturday at Pinon, you will see many children, all right, that's who I really like. Okay. You won't get it 'cause we're adults and we've lost people or you [inaudible 00:14:42] the children, children need to honor and remember. And with Wreaths Across America, that's their mantra to be teaching people, and I so embrace that. I feel that Jason would think this is a great project.

And so, I thank you for listening to me and I thank you for the opportunity of coming here. And Merry Christmas.