COBOURG, Ont. – “They shall grow not old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.”
So reads the side of a beautifully-decorated 53-ft van trailer adorned with a colourful and attention-grabbing mural that serves as a rolling tribute to Canadian soldiers of today and years gone by. Larry Josie, an independent trucker who makes a regular run along the newly-named Highway of Heroes (Hwy. 401) between Cobourg and Montreal, says he hopes to use his truck not only as a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice paid by our troops, but also as a fundraising tool to help soldiers’ families.
Josie decorated his 2005 Peterbilt as a tribute to Canada’s soldiers in 2005 – the Year of the Veteran. However, he had no plans of stopping there.
“Do they quit after 2005? No way. Every year should be the Year of the Veteran,” Josie told Truck West.
“Once I went independent, I had a big, blank trailer and I always wanted to do something with it. I thought I might as well do something to support the troops.
“The thought came after listening to the news and thinking ‘These boys need a little support.'”
Josie approached Chris McGregor, a designer at Sign Design in Whitby, Ont. and asked for a quote.
After discussing a design, McGregor brought the idea to Sign Design owner, Dave Garland.
Despite the complexity of the job and the attention to detail it required, Garland knew immediately the job had to be completed at no cost to Josie.
“If it hadn’t been so beautiful, I would not have been as eager to get it onto the side of the trailer,” admitted Garland.
“We went ahead and did it without funding because we felt strongly this had to be done. When I saw the design, I said to my designer Chris and to Larry that this is going on the trailer now. It’s too important a message to wait for funding.”
The trailer was officially unveiled at a media event in Whitby on Sept. 20. Several veterans attended, decked out in berets and their WWII medals. Garland made a heartfelt speech at the unveiling.
“What we’re doing here is the simplest and cleanest gesture that we could think of to show our support for the families, friends and fellow troops of every Canadian who is now, or is going to be, touched by the conflict in Afghanistan or has ever served in a similar capacity somewhere in the world since this country began,” Garland said.
In its first weeks on the road, Josie (whose own grandfather fought in WWII), said he has received plenty of support from other motorists and the military community.
“The response has been very good,” he said.
“Cars have been beeping on their way by. It scares the hell out of you, but it’s good!”
Josie recently took the truck to CFB Trenton and showed it to the Canadian soldiers based there.
“They just loved it,” he said. “They called me a hero.”
With Remembrance Day just around the corner, Josie plans to make the rounds and participate in as many ceremonies as possible. Then, he will turn his attention to using the trailer as a fundraising vehicle for Canada’s troops. One idea being explored is to start a trust fund for the children of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and around the world.
“We’re going to try to get some corporate sponsors and a lot of the legions involved,” Josie said.
So far, he has received calls from veterans from as far away as Nova Scotia and Alberta thanking him for his efforts and offering to make donations.
The trailer’s rear doors have been left mostly blank so the names of donors can eventually be added to the design.
Josie also plans to add the names of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan to the Canadian flag.
“Any money we can raise would be a further testament to the efforts of the military right now as well as those who have made the final sacrifice,” said Garland.
To make a contribution or book an appearance, contact Garland at 905-668-9000 or Josie at 905-960-2680.