Story by Bill Paxton
Several years ago my father was killed in a tractor accident in Arkansas. He didn’t have much experience on a tractor. He was a military man. He’d seen combat duty in World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. For twenty-seven years he’d worn the uniform of his country and it was decorated with a silver star, a bronze star, and a purple heart. He was to be buried with full military honors at the national Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Things like that don’t seem to matter to most folks these days.
The lot had fallen to my older brother to drive to Pine Bluff, Arkansas to pick up the cremated remains of my father and return them to the family home for a memorial service. My brother drove home on Interstate 30 with a plastic box containing my father’s remains and an American flag riding on the passenger seat of his pickup. As he drove along, somewhere in east Texas, his emotions started to get the best of him so he pulled on to the shoulder of the road to cry for a while. He placed the plastic box and the neatly folded flag on the hood of his truck, sat on the bumper and let the tears flow.
It wasn’t long before a trucker stopped to see if he was all right. My brother told him the story and showed him the flag. The trucker listened patiently, patted my brother on the shoulder, and said, “Son, It’s going to be all right.” The trucker disappeared for a minute and was soon back at my brother’s side. In a few minutes another trucker stopped to pay his respects and to listen to the story of my Father’s life and passing. A few minutes later two more truckers stopped to lend their support. Within fifteen minutes there were more than thirty rigs parked along the interstate. The truckers stood in a semicircle around my Father’s remains and quietly paid their respects. One of the truckers took off his cap and said, “Let’s have a prayer.” All of the other truckers took off their caps and bowed their heads as a prayer was spoken. After the prayer each of the truckers had a word of encouragement or strength.
One of the truckers said, “Come on friend. Follow us into town.” The truckers all turned on their lights and escorted my brother the rest of the way into the Metroplex.
I owe a debt to those unknown truckers. Those men stopped to help what they thought might be a stranded traveler. Instead they paid a deep honor to a man who had done his duty. Those truckers understood duty, honor, and sacrifice. And their kindness helped my family to deal with its grief over the loss of our Father.