It’s Thursday morning, the opening day of the Mid-America Trucking Show held in March at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville.
Finishing touches are being put on booths. Vacuum cleaners still whir as the first visitors stroll the aisles of the West Wing of the sprawling Expo Center and smartphone cameras capture the scenes.
Alongside a 2015 Freightliner Cascadia wrapped in bold military-themed graphics, Randy Twine is getting an assist from some other folks at the booth #66060. They’re carefully unfolding an American flag, attaching it to a flag pole and hanging it on the back of the truck next to the familiar black and white POW/MIA flag.
Twine is plenty familiar with flag etiquette, having spent more than 26 years in three branches of the U.S military. First there were 12 and a half years active duty in the Army, followed by six years in the Army Reserves and eight more in the Air Force Reserves. During that time, he was deployed abroad numerous times, including Panama and the Middle East.
In fact, he was still stationed in Germany in 1993 when he was recruited and ultimately hired by Schneider, the Indianapolis-based carrier with more than 13,000 drivers and ranked seventh on Commercial Carrier Journal’s Top 250 list.
Since then, Twine has driven for Schneider and amassed and 1.7 million accident-free miles.
Combined, Twine’s military service and his exemplary record driving dry van for Schneider earned him a special spot in the fleet.
Since last May, the 51-year-old from Clarksville, Tenn. has been at the wheel of Schneider’s Ride of Pride, the company’s veterans tribute truck.
“My heart skipped a beat when I found out that I had been chosen to drive the new Ride of Pride,” says Twine. “This is just such an honor because the truck means so much to everybody and represents the countless individuals who have done so much to keep us all free.”
Freightliner’s Ride of Pride tradition began over 12 years ago when Ed Keeter, a Freightliner shift manager and Vietnam War veteran, proposed the project as a way to honor current and former members of the military. Since then, Freightliner has presented Ride of Pride trucks to Schneider in 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2013. In 2011 Schneider also received the only unit produced by Freightliner to honor Canadian military members.
As traffic picks up around booth #66060, Twine explains all of the scenes and insignia on the truck. Battles from Omaha Beach in World War II to Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm are shown. Also on the truck are the insignia of each branch of the service, as well as an eagle with the American flag on its wings, a nod to the Wounded Warrior Project and the POW/MIA logo on the hood. Up near the front of the truck is a tribute to Gold Star parents, folks who have lost a child in combat.
Also on the truck is a scene from Arlington National Cemetery, a spot close to Twine’s heart.
Late last year, Twine led the Wreaths Across America convoy into Arlington and helped as thousands of volunteers place remembrance wreaths on the graves of soldiers.
“I wish everyone could do that,” says Twine. “That’s a ‘bucket list’ kind of thing. It was an awesome thing to do.”
Oddly, some of the first MATS visitors to stop by the Schneider booth and hug Twine were Wayne Hanson, chairman of Wreaths Across America; his wife Ann; and Morrill Worcester and his wife Karen, owners of the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Me., the folks who launched what would become WWA in 1992.
Twine will have another “bucket list” experience in May. That’s when he’ll drive the Ride of Pride truck at Rolling Thunder, the gathering of one million bikers riding through Washington, D.C. as a show of patriotism and in recognition of Vietnam War POW/MIA.
And, then, not long after, Twine will begin the process of training a new person to drive the Ride of Pride truck. He says it’s a labor of love, appearing at patriotic and military events, shows like MATS, recruiting fairs, schools and driving in parades. With a new person in the big, orange, patriotic Cascadia, Twine says he will go back to his daily driving, something he enjoys for a company he respects.
“I’ve done a lot of cool things I thought I’d never do,” says Twine.
“From day one, (Schneider) has treated me like family. What else can you ask for?”
And, speaking of family, Twine and his wife of 25 years Maria have two children, a daughter Alyssa, who is 24, and son Kevin, who is 17.
When not on the road, Twine and his son have a small woodworking business in the basement of their home.