Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008 – Very few truckers can actually say the sight of their rigs brings people to tears after they pass them on the highway.
However, OOIDA members Rick Peters and his wife, Elizabeth, can honestly say they have one of those rare trucks that evoke such emotion in people – both young and old alike.
Photos courtesy of the Oregon Veterans Foundation
“Rolling Tribute” was one of the last works that artist Jere Harley completed before losing his battle with cancer. The brother of a retired Marine Corps colonel, Harley said he was very committed to working on the project, even though he was extremely sick.
Rick Peters of Wilsonville, OR, said he had one of those “aha” moments after months of lying awake at night and wondering what he could do to express his gratitude to the veterans who have served our country and sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms.
The result of his vision was the creation of “Rolling Tribute,” a custom-painted 2007 Peterbilt dump truck and transporter with the murals depicting scenes honoring American soldiers.
“I think you get to a certain age – at least I did – where I started focusing on something other than myself and what I could do to hopefully make a difference,” he said. “Then I started asking myself what I can do that will matter to someone else before I kick the bucket and depart this Earth.”
He admits many of the stories he and his wife have heard from people since heading out on the road with truck have been overwhelming, but all have been thankful for the Peters’ acknowledgement of the sacrifices veterans have made.
“I had one lady in her late 30s or early 40s stop her car in front of our truck at a truck stop – a bold move – and get out and come over and give me the biggest hug,” he told Land Line Magazine on Monday, Nov. 10. “She burst out in tears and said her son was currently in Iraq and she worried about his safety every day. She said it overwhelmed her to know this kind of support existed here, and it meant so much to her and her son.”
He said another story that stands out in his mind was the reaction of what he called “big, burly, biker-type Vietnam Veterans,” who came over to visit with them after seeing the Peters’ truck for the first time.
“These Vietnam vets came over and hugged us, some with tears in their eyes and said ‘Thank you for doing this; we’ve never really been thanked before,’ ” Peters said. “But then we had to explain to them: ‘No, thank you; this is to honor what you have done for us.’ ”
Peters said one sad note to the overwhelmingly positive response the truck has received is that the artist behind the beautifully-detailed murals, Jere Harley, died of terminal cancer not long after finishing “Rolling Tribute.” Harley’s brother was a retired colonel in the Marine Corps, so Peters said he was committed to working on the project, even though he was extremely sick.
“Jere told me this was one of the most rewarding projects he ever did. Even though he wasn’t a veteran, he had a close connection with them and was committed to honoring their sacrifices,” Rick Peters said.
“Rolling Tribute” is just a sideline project to what the Peters are trying to do to honor veterans. Read Part 2 later tonight to see the massive project they have undertaken in Oregon to help veterans there.
To visit the Peters’ Web site and see more photos of their rig, click here.
– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer