Neosho trucking company decorates tractor to honor fallen firefighters from Carthage, Neosho, Seneca.
It'll be hard to miss Randy Rogers and his wife, Elizabeth, as they're traveling America's roads in their Certified Express Inc. tractor trailer.
The Seneca couple picked up the new tractor they'll be team driving. The bright red rig is a rolling memorial to firefighters everywhere, and especially three area heroes who died protecting and serving the communities where they lived.
The back of the cab has a big banner that says 'We'll take it from here” and under that three smaller banners with the names Timothy Hardy, NFD, Neosho, Mo.; Tyler H. Casey, SAFPD, Seneca, Mo.; and Steve Fierro, CFD, Carthage, Mo.
On either side of the tractor is a big Maltese Cross, a symbol of the fire service, with the words “How they lived, made them heroes.”
The truck's name, “Memorial Run,” is painted on a banner across the Maltese Cross.
“Every time we carry a load it's called a run,” Rogers said. “This is a Memorial Run for us as long as this truck is on the road.”
Rogers said the truck was one more way to remember people he desperately wanted the world not to forget.
“I want the world to know what these guys did and who they were,” Rogers said. “These guys are awesome, they go to work every single day and sometimes they don't come home and I want the world to know that all of these firefighters, every single firefighter, is worthy of remembering. They do a thankless job and I want them remembered.”
The three firefighters featured by name on the truck died in the line of duty, and Rogers, a former Seneca firefighter, had met each one before they died.
Rogers said he only met Fierro briefly. Seneca and Carthage fire departments didn't work together routinely because the two departments are too far apart.
Rogers said his vehicle broke down on U.S. Highway 71 back in the early 2000s and he had to call 911 because he was afraid it had caught fire.
“In fact, I had run out of oil and overheated it, but I called 911 and Steve was on the engine that responded that night,” Rogers said. “So Steve and I had a short conversation, he teased me a little bit because I was a fellow firefighter. That was probably in early 2002 or 2003, a long time ago.
“He just had a sense of humor. I said this is embarrassing, I'm a firefighter. The one thing he said was, 'it happens to everybody,' and I said why couldn't it have happened to someone else this time. Steve told me don't worry about it, that's what we're here for and that was the last time I talked to him.”
Fierro died while fighting a fire at a restaurant north of Diamond on Feb. 18, 2004. Rogers said the last time he was in Carthage was for Fierro's funeral.
Rogers said he was much closer to the other two firefighters, Tim Hardy, Neosho; and Tyler Casey, Seneca.
Hardy was killed in November 2005 while investigating a fire at the Ragland Mills feed mill in Neosho.
“Tim was also the best man in my daughter's wedding,” Rogers said “We drove dump trucks in the summer before outside the department. We had mutual aided calls a number of times together. He was a super-quiet guy and he is missed.”
Casey, a Seneca Fire Protection District firefighter, was killed while acting as a weather spotter for the district during the Mother's Day tornado, May 10, 2008.
Not only did Rogers know Casey well, Rogers' own son and daughter-in-law were injured in the same tornado very near the place where Casey was killed.
“Tyler couldn't see the impending tornado through the rain curtain,” Rogers said. “The tornado got him. My son was across the street on Iris Road at the time in his car and parked because he couldn't see anymore and the tornado actually picked my son and his wife up and took them, in their car, end over end for about a quarter of a mile in a field. They survived with only a few injuries, but unfortunately Tyler didn't. Every May, there's a lot of survivors guilt. His parents are friends as well, his dad drives for CEI.”
Rolling story board
Rogers said he approached his boss, Scott Wade, CEO of Certified Express, about putting a firefighters memorial on his next truck and Wade jumped on the idea immediately.
“He didn't think twice,” Rogers said. “When I threw the idea at him it didn't take him 15 seconds for me to explain it and Scott said let's do it. I said, you're kidding, do you know what this is going to cost, and he said it doesn't matter, we're going to do it and he's been on board ever since.”
Rogers called his truck a rolling storyboard with memorials to not only the local heroes but to other lost firefighters.
On the driver's side of the truck just below the door handle is a QR code, which when read by a smart phone, takes one to the website of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
When it's completed, each fender of the truck will feature QR codes that will take you to memorial websites honoring the 14 firefighters killed in 1994 Storm King Mountain fire in western Colorado, and the 19 firefighters killed in the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona.
Rogers said he had worked with some of the 14 Prineville Hotshots that were killed in the Storm King Fire.
In addition, the truck features an FDNY hood ornament honoring the 343 New York City Firefighters killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“So this really is a traveling story board to remember all these fallen firefighters,” Rogers said. “There are a lot of stories in this truck and I just don't want them to be forgotten.”
Linda Pruitt, Steve Fierro's mother, said she was touched that Rogers and CEI decided to include Steve on this truck.
“It's very touching, it's very important to me because I don't want any of them to be forgotten,” Pruitt said. “They were all such wonderful young men and left behind so many people who love them and miss them dearly and this is a real honor for me to see this and I'm thankful that they thought enough of my son to do this.”
Carthage Fire Chief Roger Williams worked with Fierro during his time with CFD and only heard about the truck in recent days.
“It's pretty cool to think that truck will run up and down the highway across the country, basically spreading the word for those of us who are heroes,” Williams said. “t's been this many years and it's impressive that folks are still out here and they want to remember and honor him and the other two fellows that are up there also. The respect for the fallen is something that doesn't seem to go away, and that's a good thing.”