David Buck has spent a career pulling double duty, and it has served him well. In fact, when Schneider chose Buck from its pool of military veteran employees as a driver in its Ride of Pride program, his proven ability to handle multiple tasks likely made him an obvious selection. For a man who has served his country and its veterans in both military and civilian roles, driving the Ride of Pride truck, “The American,” is double duty Buck considers a privilege.
Personal values and collective success
Before entering high school in Springfield, Illinois, Buck’s parents placed him on the road to success by helping him focus on values. While his grandfather, father and uncle had previously served in the military, carrying on a family tradition wasn’t what called Buck to enlist.
“I didn’t feel pressure to join,” said Buck. “I truly felt a passion and calling to serve my country.” For Buck, the calling lasted much longer than his original four-year commitment; in fact, even after retirement from a 20-year Air Force career, he still feels the calling and passion to serve.
Buck knows distractions can cause him to exit his highway to success, but he keeps his eyes on the road and lets his values guide the way. The Air Force taught Buck that honor and sacrifice walk hand in hand He learned that increased responsibility comes with the duty of accountability. And he realized how honor, sacrifice, responsibility and duty work together to benefit the Air Force, fellow airmen and the collective culture of America.
Overall, learning the importance of standing for something larger than himself fueled Buck’s journey.
Double duty in the 21st century
David Buck’s military specialty was firefighting. He could have geared up, responded to the occasional Air Force fire and fulfilled his most important duty. But firefighting is more than just extinguishing blazes. Buck trained constantly to learn the protocols for attacking various fire situations. He passed his knowledge on to airmen in other specialties, introducing them to the fire risks inherent in their normal course of duties and how to prevent or handle them if an emergency occurs.
As an airman, Buck served both stateside and overseas, including a deployment to Saudi Arabia in support of the War on Terror. When he retired from the military he didn’t leave his passion behind. In fact, the direction he chose did not take him far from his military roots.
Buck went to work for Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, a cemetery where 20,000 veterans dating back to the Civil War are buried. He began as a landscaper and later worked as master gardener for the Veteran’s Administration. Although Buck held a civilian job, he continued to serve his country by honoring veterans and their families.
Buck soon decided his career needed a more radical shift. He didn’t realize it wasn’t as radical as he first believed.
Changing roles and new challenges
“I got my CDL and started driving,” said Buck.
Buck chose a truck-driving career out of love for traveling and driving. The “career” part was a bonus, he said. Schneider, a Wisconsin-based carrier founded in 1935 and today employs more than 20,000 people, both trained and hired Buck. In 2018, Schneider honored Buck’s military service when handing him the keys to “The American,” a Freightliner decorated as a rolling tribute to veterans. Suddenly Buck was back to serving double duty — representing Schneider’s company values and, once again, honoring U.S. veterans.
“I was an ambassador for Schneider all over the country,” he said. “I drove the truck in veterans’ parades and to driving schools, job fairs and military events.” He is especially proud of driving in the honor convoy for the Wreaths Across America (WAA) program. The national nonprofit works with volunteers, including truck drivers and carriers, to deliver wreaths to display on gravesites at veterans’ cemeteries across the country. “It’s the longest veterans’ parade in the country,” he said.
The WAA convoy traveled from Columbia Falls, Maine, to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, hauling wreaths to be placed in the most hallowed cemetery in America. “We received police escorts every mile of the 740-mile trip,” Buck said. Along with other members of the convoy, Buck delivered wreaths honoring 400,000 U.S. veterans buried in the cemetery.
“There are 18 veteran-related memorials and monuments depicted in the artwork on ‘The American,’” said Buck. “I’ve driven the truck to 12 so far.”
Slowing down and coming home
Buck still drives “The American,” but he’s no longer a full-time Schneider ambassador; instead, he drives a dedicated route. “A month or so back I took on a dedicated route pulling Walmart reefers,” he said. “After a few years of being away from home, I like the free time a dedicated route offers.”
But Buck still makes the rounds to events and appearances with his truck.
“I see a lot of jaw-dropping when people walk up to the truck,” said Buck. “Lots ask if they can take pictures.” That’s exactly what Schneider and Daimler Trucks hoped for when beginning the Ride of Pride program.
Buck said he hopes to drive two or three more years before moving into a training or safety role. “Safety was my job for 20 years,” he said. “I’d like to put those skills to work.”
When Buck no longer drives “The American,” he’ll pass the keys to another driver selected from Schneider’s pool of drivers with military service. Hopefully his successor will feel the same sense of privilege Buck felt as a Schneider Ride of Pride ambassador.
Come to think of it, maybe David Buck hasn’t made a career performing double duty after all. As far as Buck is concerned, his career is not about multitasking; it represents but one example of the collective role we all play as U.S. citizens — being Americans.