After a year spent crisscrossing the country to support a variety of military-themed endeavors – from participating in parades, Wounded Warrior charity events, even military funerals – one would think Randy Twine might find it difficult to adjust to being a solo truck driver again, alone with his thoughts traveling hundreds if not thousands of miles of asphalt.
Thing is, Twine is never alone.
Ever present either on his person or in his truck are two well-worn photographs of U.S. Army soldiers killed in action (KIA): Captain Christopher Scott Cash, KIA in Afghanistan, and Specialist Dustin Harris, KIA in Iraq.
Twine (seen at right) told me as we sat amid the hustle and bustle of the Mid America Trucking Show back in March that the mothers of both those soldiers – known in military circles as “gold star mothers” – gave him the pictures after Twine hosted them in his truck during separate events honoring the U.S. military dead.
“They shared their memories of their sons with me because they live on only if they are remembered,” Twine told me. “And it’s very easy to carry such brave lives lived with me wherever I go.”
Yet he admitted that it’s hard as well, especially if one is an “emotional person” as the gregarious Twine most certainly is.
“Sometimes it gets to me; sometimes I’m driving down the road and tears just start falling down my face,” he said.
The photo of Spec. Harris is especially poignant for Twine.
A Schneider driver since 1993, Twine served more than 12 years with the U.S. Army before transitioning to the Army National Guard in 1992 and then the Air Force National Guard in 1999.
After deployments to Panama, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, he retired from military service in 2006 to drive tractor-trailers full time.
Yet that last assignment proved the toughest, for Twine handled “HR” flights for the Air Force – the shipment of human remains from the combat zone back home. In conversations with Harris’ father, Twine realized that Harris would have been one of his HR cases, if he’d stayed in the field but one week longer.
Yet Twine regrets neither his military memories nor his service as a “Ride of Pride” driver for Schneider. Indeed, he considered it a “bucket list item” and relished the chance to serve his military brethren in this fashion.
“It’s simple patriotism,” he explained to me. “My greatest honor is the privilege of living and working for this country, which is the greatest in the world. As ‘Ride of Pride’ drivers we have to be outstanding ambassadors for our company, yes, but more so for our military brothers and sisters.”
Twine credits his military experience with making him a better truck driver and “Ride of Pride” ambassador as well.
“It all goes back to discipline,” he emphasized. “Our number one priority is safety and you must have the discipline and patience to be safe in everything you do driving a truck every day.”
Twine said an extra layer of duties comes with being a “Ride of Pride” ambassador, namely: being diplomatic and cordial in all circumstances; keeping the truck clean at all times; recognize that you are in the public eye; and emotional preparedness.
“Nothing prepares you for everything you experience as a ‘Ride of Pride’ driver,” Twine stressed. “But you do the best you can. And the best part of it all is knowing that you’ve made a difference in this world.”
Amen to that.