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Patriotic ride: Trucker with DL firm decorates semi with tribute to veterans

Trucker Rob Raethz of BM Transport in Detroit Lakes proudly displays the tribute to U.S. veterans that decorates the passenger side of his semi. The artwork includes various symbols and sayings honoring veterans for their sacrifice. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

Freedom is never free. Veterans paid for your freedom. Feel free to use it, but please, don't ever abuse it.

"I believe in that saying, big time," says Rob Raethz — so much so, in fact, that the driver for BM Transport of Detroit Lakes has had the side of his semi truck decorated with those very words, along with various other symbols honoring the United States Armed Forces.

"I'm a veteran myself," he explained, noting that "a lot of good men died" fighting America's wars in Korea, Vietnam, and more recently, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Though he got permission from BM Transport owners Brad Mack and Robin Vogt to put the decals on his truck, he had to do so at his own expense.

"I just have a lot of respect for veterans," he said of his reasons for having the decorations added to his vehicle, which can frequently be found traveling the highways and byways between BM Transport's Detroit Lakes headquarters and his home in Moorhead.

Besides Raethz's favorite patriotic saying, the truck also displays an American flag at half mast, a photo of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the symbols of all five branches of the U.S. armed services — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Though he is proud of the finished product, Raethz says he's not going to be able to keep it for much longer.

"I'm getting a new truck," he said, noting that his current vehicle is now more than four years old, and has over 486,000 miles on it, which means that the company wants to replace it.

While he would like to have the decals put on the new vehicle, Raethz notes, he doesn't think he will be able to because of the expense. "My wife would kill me," he joked.

Though he would welcome any help from the public he could get, in the way of monetary donations to pay for getting the work done, Raethz says, "That's not why I did this (i.e., as a way to get money)."

Rather, he wanted to find a way to pay tribute to his fellow veterans, and particularly those who sacrificed life and limb in service to their country.

"At times, I think they (veterans) don't get their fair shake," Raethz explained.

"When they do (get their due), I say it's about time," he added.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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