Enthusiasm for trucks leads to meaningful Memorial Day

Fred Karol, with his son Silas and daughter Rorie, walk through Wood National Cemetery on Memorial Day. (Photos courtesy of Amanda Karol)

COVID-19 MAY HAVE changed the way people mourn, commemorate and celebrate in 2020, but for Boilermaker Fred Karol from L-1509 (Cudahy, Wisconsin), that doesn’t mean life stops—not when the Wisconsin Truck Takeover Enthusiasts are around.

The Wisconsin Truck Takeover Enthusiasts is an informal group that convened on Facebook over a shared love of … you guessed it … trucks. But as social distancing and limitations on gatherings became necessary to slow the virus spread—putting the kibosh on group activities—they found another way to leverage their trucks and their enthusiasm.

“They were doing birthday drive-by parades for kids. A friend showed it to me (on Facebook), and I wanted to help out,” says Karol, who drives a 2018 Ford F-150. “All of us with big pickup trucks put flags on the back of our trucks and would drive by the kid’s house. It was a lot of fun.”

Karol says the smallest birthday drive-by parade they had included around 25 trucks; the biggest had over 100—from pickups to family vehicles and even an old military transport vehicle.

Then came Memorial Day.

Normally on Memorial Day, to honor fallen military servicemen and women buried at Wood National Cemetery near Milwaukee, Boy Scouts and cemetery staff work together for a public ceremony and to place flags on the 38,000 gravesites. But with COVID-19 restrictions, that activity was cancelled.

Wisconsin Truck Takeover Enthusiasts decided they’d take the task on, and the word went out via Facebook for volunteers. Karol, his wife, and two of their five kids answered the call to help. Karol even personally purchased 1,500 flags.

“It just needed to be done,” he says of his decision to donate flags. “They were having problems generating donations to get the flags. Of the 38,000 plots, we said, ‘let’s just get as many as we can.’ They only had 250 flags, so I called a local company in town that does flags and asked them to give me $500-worth.”

Karol, who is a vacuum press operator at ATI Forged Products, adds that he feels it’s an important responsibility to give back—that others who may want to do so aren’t in a position to afford it. “Being a Boilermaker, I have a good job and good wages,” he says.

About sixty people from Wisconsin Truck Takeover Enthusiasts participated and ultimately placed 5,000-some flags. Karol says his wife had always wanted to place flags on Memorial Day, and his 13-year-old son, Silas, and 12-year-old daughter, Rorie, enjoyed the day. Rorie added an especially moving touch.

“Sometimes people who have special needs get ‘latched onto’ things, and Rorie’s thing is that she loves the National Anthem,” he explains. The Karols’ five children are all adopted from the Ukraine and all have Down syndrome.

“Every time she placed a flag, she stopped, put her hand over her heart and sang the National Anthem.”

“Veterans and the fallen servicemen and women are the reason we’re free to do what we do—they gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can live and work and play,” he adds. “I don’t want them to go forgotten. Memorial Day is not just another barbecuing day.”

Watch a news clip of L-1509 Boilermaker Fred Karol and other Wisconsin Truck Takeover Enthusiasts honoring fallen servicemen and women at Wood National Cemetery. https://fox6now.com/2020/05/25/taken-it-upon-ourselves-wisconsin-truck-takeover-enthusiasts-place-5000-flags-at-wood-national-cemetery/