How a retired fire Lt.’s ‘Memorial Run’ truck honors the fallen
Although four names are emblazoned on the back of Randall Rogers’ semi-truck, the rig honors all firefighters who have died in the line of duty
By Shelbie Watts, FireRescue1 Editorial Assistant
Not many truck drivers are used to vehicles following their rigs to try and get a look, but for a retired fire lieutenant and his wife, it’s something that’s happened more than once.
That’s because the “Memorial Run” is one of a kind.
Although the semi is emblazoned with the names of a few fallen firefighters, retired fire Lt. Randall Rogers said the goal is to honor every firefighter who has given his or her life in the line of duty.
Honoring the fallen Firefighters
As Rogers and his wife Elizabeth drive across the country in the bright red Certified Express, Inc. semi-truck, passerby will first notice a giant gold Maltese cross emblazoned on the side of the rig.
“How they lived made them heroes” the cross reads, with “Memorial Run” proudly displayed in the middle.
Things get a little more personal on the back, with the names of firefighters that Rogers personally knew. Tim Hardy, Tyler Casey, Steve Fierro and William Brinza are memorialized, with their names on gold ribbons. Below their names, the Granite Mountain Hotshots who died at Yarnell Hill are honored alongside the Prineville Hotshots who died while fighting the 1994 South Canyon fire in Colorado. A bagpiper is also shown walking away, referencing the traditional backdrop of firefighter funerals.
The front of the truck honors all firefighters and features a custom grill dedicated to the fallen firefighters of 9/11 and the FDNY.
Rogers said he was not quite aware what he was getting into when he designed the truck. “We put it in service on April 1 of this year, and it became a lot more than I ever expected,” Rogers said.
An emotional reception
The first stop the Memorial Run made was to pay a visit to the Niosho Fire Department in Missouri, where Hardy worked when he was killed in the line of duty.
“We took it down there and the first of the big, emotional experiences came about,” Rogers said. “All of the current firefighters, past chief, past firefighters, media, city council, everyone showed up … and I hadn’t told any media.”
Rogers said he and Elizabeth stood back as the firefighters showed “absolute reverence” to the mobile memorial.
“They walked around and looked, and walked around some more, and nobody spoke,” he said. “And I thought, ‘wow, this is what we needed. ’”
The moment became one of many as the truck made its way to other departments, including the Carthage Fire Department, where Fierro was a member. His mother was there to greet them.
“Linda, Steve’s mom, said ‘don’t misunderstand my question, but why did you do this?’” Rogers recalled. “And I said, ‘if I forget my guys that I’ve lost, what is the world doing for the rest of them? I don’t want these guys forgotten.’”
Remembering tyler casey
“The whole purpose was to have this truck ready for Tyler’s 10th anniversary, and we went out to shoot pictures with the truck at the gravesite.” Rogers said. “We later discovered we had lost another firefighter (Brinza) in a neighboring community while we were at Tyler’s service.”
The couple attended Brinza’s funeral, and while they were worried the truck might be distracting, the fire chief assured them they were a welcome addition.
Rogers said the hardest part of showing the truck is “separating the shows from honoring the guys.”
“We don’t go to the truck shows to say, ‘hey look at our truck,’ we go to the show because I’m going to see 20,000 people, and those 20,000 people are going to leave and say ‘wow, we didn’t realize that these guys go to work every day and sometimes they don’t come home.’ And that’s what we love.”