Truckers Honor Fallen Brothers in Arms
(March 30, 2009)
Richard Lyons and his wife Debbie Frederick, commercial truck
drivers, pose with four Marines at an unveiling ceremony for a
traveling exhibit that replicates what a future underground
education center will display when it's built on the National Mall.
Lyons and Frederick will drive the truck which also carries a
half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial throughout the country
from April through November.
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009
Richard Lyons and his wife Debbie Frederick have a new job they're proud to
perform -- bringing honor and respect to the troops who never returned from the
After years of driving commercial trucks hauling mainly
Humvees and other military equipment, the couple soon will hit the road driving
a 14-wheel tractor trailer carrying the "The Wall That Heals" to cities and
towns across the nation.
The exhibition features a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial, located
here, which bears the names of 58,260 names of the fallen, missing and prisoners
of war. Since it was inaugurated in 1996, millions of people have seen the
exhibit in nearly 300 cities and towns throughout the United States.
The trailer hauling the wall has been
refurbished and the six large display windows have been
redesigned to feature photos of fallen Vietnam vets and
mementos left by visitors to the Vietnam Memorial. The
display replicates what will appear in The Education Center
at the Wall: America's Legacy of Service, a facility being
built on the National Mall.
"When I left Vietnam I left a lot of good brothers behind,"
Lyons said today following an unveiling ceremony here. "When
I went to the Vietnam Wall, I felt compassion and I said my
prayers. When I turned around to walk away, I felt like I
was leaving them again."
Wounded in 1968, Lyons left the military and spent the next
30 years as a commercial truck driver. He met Debbie while
having his truck serviced in Spartanburg, S.C. She'd spent
five years as an Army wife living at Fort Benning, Ga.,
where she'd become active in troops-support activities
before leaving for truck driving school.
Lyons sees his new job as a way for him to "give back" to
his fallen and missing brothers.
"This way I get to take them home to the communities, to the
families, the lands where they grew up, the skies, the
streams, the mountains they'd seen," he said. "This is my
giving back to them."
At the age of 17, Lyons left his home in Miami to follow in
his father's footsteps by joining the military. He enlisted
in the Navy, attended jungle training in Panama, dive school
in Key West, Fla., weapons training at Marine Corps Base
Quantico, Va., and jump school at Fort Benning. He
volunteered for Vietnam where he served four tours with the
Marine Corps 1st Reconniassance Battalion and the Navy
With a slight grin and a twinkle in his eye, Lyons, now 62,
explained why he stayed so long.
"They were just serving good chow at the mess hall," he
said. "I didn't want to leave. Then I found out where the
beer stash was so I just stayed."
He proudly noted that his application for the new job was
the only one that was handwritten and sent through the U.S.
Post Office. "Where I'm from in Alabama, where we live now,
we use signal fires, semaphore, and the only phone we had
was two cans and a string, and somebody broke the string."
He still wears his Marine "cover," a green camouflage
ballcap, when he drives.
As he headed off to pose for a photo with four young
Marines, Lyons paused to send a personal message to the
troops now serving in harm's way.
"Thank you to all veterans," he said, "and thank you to my
boys who are over there doing it now. You're very brave."
The Wall that Heals will be on tour April through November.
For dates and locations go
photo by Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
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