LEAD WITH FAITH - Don Talley
LEAD WITH FAITH
Legend Nominee: Don Talley
It has been stated time and again, wisdom and understanding go hand in hand. Often, a listening ear is the only support required; in return, further insight is gained, enabling an opportunity of improvement for all involved.
This Legend driver is 64 years young, having experienced life’s collection of ups and downs, he shares in detail his lifetime highlights from years past along with future goals he aspires to attain. We discuss his current endeavors that involve helping others rediscover their purpose, his motivation driving the cause, and why feels the program is influential.
“You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.” – Jim Stovall
Indiana native, Don Talley is a retired U.S. Army veteran with an additional 20-year driving career in the trucking industry. He explains the two lifestyles are parallel in principle; investing of self-sacrifice, proceeding from a moral duty to serve our country. Both careers have granted Don the freedom to explore various parts of the world and provide for his family, together with a community of support.
Don comes from a military family, his father and older brother served in the Army. Many of the lessons he learned during his time in the service, Don says are just as necessary as a professional truck driver. Stating, teamwork, leadership, and self-discipline all need to find an equal balance in one’s work ethic to reach his or her full potential, for each of the three characteristics are an essential component when achieving success. He adds, his experience with the military opened his eyes to a more powerful understanding – an appreciation of how precious life truly is – an awareness, in a sense.
An Army Drill Sgt. Of the Air Defense Artillery Branch, Don served during Vietnam, Desert Shield, and Desert Storm. Reflecting upon his military career, his personal victory was returning home safely after every deployment, knowing each soldier within his assigned troops were back with their loved ones. After retirement, transitioning into the civilian workforce, Don continued to focus on taking care of his family, for the most part maintaining multiple jobs at one time. However, his good deeds and loyalty couldn’t prepare, nor shield him from the tragedy life delivered without mercy.
Upon learning of the loss of his 16-year old child, Laurie, in 1995 he explains how the devastation led him to an emotional state of grief and sorrow. The gift of time, along with the support of his church family, Don slowly began to mend the broken pieces of his soul back together. Releasing his anguish awarded the strength he needed to begin the healing. By expressing his feelings, connecting with people who were receptive, getting the help he needed, and seeking support from others helped put Don’s feet on solid ground. With hope and confidence he was able to be the anchor for his remaining family.
Many years later, Don’s heart is at peace, surrounded by joy – with Becky, his wife of 42 years and their youngest daughter, Lisa, and her three children. An extremely proud Papa, Don says that he is a regular on the sidelines of all his grandchildren, as they participate in sports year-round. Though he is well-accomplished today, Don states that his greatest gift of success is measured by the happiness of his family. The flexibility of his work schedule allows him weekends off, then Monday through Friday he pulls dry van over-the-road.
An avid listener of the Road Dog Channel on Sirius XM Radio, Don befriended former professional driver, Tim Ridley – host of the Tim Ridley Show. Don says that Tim’s compassion for his fellow drivers of the road proved evident through the many conversations broadcast on-air. Tim’s innate ability to connect with the radio audience demonstrates his extraordinary communication skills; combined with his extensive background in the business, he is an asset many seek for guidance. Don states,
“I knew immediately that Tim was a Christian man, so he had my attention very early on. You can tell by his tone that he is sincere. When he discusses topics within trucking or when he talks to drivers, you know that he genuinely respects what we do for a living, because he has been in our shoes. Tim shares informative information that we as drivers need to hear, as well as, uplifting words of encouragement – knowing that someone somewhere needed that support. He also has a way of getting drivers to express themselves in a professional manner. I think highly of Tim, the type of man he represents, and the positivity he strives to speak into our line of work. I can only hope to leave that type of impression on another.”
Tim’s history in the trucking industry spans over 25 years, from running as a company driver, becoming a small fleet owner to eventually switching roles to driving instructor, driver recruiter, and later securing a terminal manager position. Now a chaplain and radio host, his experience in all areas of the business provides a platform to effectively influence professionals in today’s trucking industry.
One night, Tim took a call from a military veteran while Don listened intently to the conversation on-air, as he tuned in regularly when driving on the road. The former soldier vented his frustrations concerning life post-deployment, admitting his faults with anger – Don could relate and knew exactly what he needed to do. He made a phone call to his favorite radio personality, who later put him in connection with the caller. Following an exchange of separate conversations between the two veterans, Don’s next move initiated a chain of similar effect.
During his time in the Army, Don received 20 U.S. challenge coins as an act of acknowledgement from the military for his superior service – one of which was presented by the Secretary of the Army, the honorable William P. Stone. The commemorative tokens were also awarded in recognition of an earned respect in regard to the safe return of military troops upon assignment. Wanting to extend this prestigious praise, Don sent one of his personal coins as a Christmas gift to his new friend, encouraging him to keep his spirit alive. Stating,
“I wanted to give my coin to him so that any time he hit a low point, he could look at it and know that he is not alone… that he has not been left behind. Also, that he will never be forgotten but is instead admired for his bravery and appreciated for his service to our great nation. That is what that coin represents.”
An outreach program offering council for veterans is an idea for his next venture, if or when the opportunity presents itself. Understanding the importance of a safe space to encourage mental health, due to familiar circumstances, Don offers his own presence – whether by phone or a visit – If only a simple conversation, he wants veterans to reach out and contact him.
Don states that his earlier years as a drill sergeant taught him the importance of looking after one another. Then, with the loss of his daughter, he was reminded how fragile and unpredictable life can be. Acting on that phone call and sending his challenge coin all solidified his purpose moving forward…
If our time on this Earth isn’t spent helping each other survive and rise above, then what is our meaning for life?
Is there such a thing as peace if we as individuals can’t find it within ourselves?
The military coin was a simple gesture but signifies perseverance. Which is why Don wanted to integrate the giving of challenge coins to drivers at his current company, Carter Express Inc. Headquartered in Anderson, Indiana, Don joined the fleet of company drivers in 2003. Having operated as a driver trainer for 16 years, his dedication to Carter Express Inc. has been undeniable since day one…
Moving on from the military, with a Class B license Don secured a driving position for a bus company operating tour buses. He divided his work days between part-time jobs as a maintenance supervisor, a transportation and home detention officer, while still managing to squeeze in time to help run his father’s gas station.
Growing up in Muncie, Indiana during the 50’s Don’s mother, Lois tended to the children while his father, Alvie owned and operated three local gas stations. The closest of locations was near enough for Don to ride his bike and chip in before or after school, sometimes both. Don’s childhood consisted of pumping gas and changing tires, over time graduating to more laborious duties. From the age of 9, until he left for the military right before his 18th birthday, he was at the gas station learning mechanics and the true definition of hard work.
Eager to pursue a career in the footsteps of his father and brother, out of the five branches of military, Don chose the Army – after completing basic training, he graduated an AIT soldier from Air Defense Artillery School. His training then continued at the Army Airborne school, followed by the Ranger Program. Next, he attended Pathfinder training in Florida, returning back to Georgia for Ranger Battalion training.
Not only wanting to carry on the Talley family name in military tradition, but Don’s intentions of joining the service were to also travel to different countries; experience diversity, witness cultures first-hand, and see the various sites of places near and far. Throughout his time in the Army, he was stationed in Korea, Germany twice, back to the U.S. in Hawaii, and accepted missions to Saudi Arabia and Iraq. His driving skills included military vehicles, such as armored personal carriers, tanks, 2.5 and 5-ton trucks. He was tasked with training soldiers to operate big rigs for transportation of ammunition.
Despite his military experience and years of driving an assortment of semi-trucks, as a civilian he needed more on paper according to trucking companies seeking qualified drivers. Thankfully, men and women of service transitioning into the workforce are finding the trucking industry more accommodating to their skillsets, ingenuity, and proficiency. After 3 years of seasonal work operating a tour bus, Don was ready to obtain his Class A CDL license.
Carter Express, Inc. offers a training program unlike many others. Don explains how the beginning stages of joining the trucking company made all the difference; he hopes all drivers coming onboard receive the same positive experience. He describes the atmosphere as driver-friendly and very inviting, while the instructors were informative and patient.
“Here, we are a family-owned company with an open-door policy, drivers are encouraged to discuss any issues that may arise. That alone makes a huge difference! A company that cares… that listens and wants to make their drivers happy – it says a lot about how they do business. Our equipment is nice, properly maintained. Most importantly, they take pride in what our company is about.”
Having dedicated 17 years of his professional driving career to Carter Express, Inc. his commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed. Don was nominated by Carter Express, Inc. as a driver candidate for the 2020 TA Petro Citizen Driver Award in recognition of his professionalism and focus on continuous improvement (including of others); true leadership potential. He is goal-oriented with a positive attitude, who strives to bring out the best of everyone. Don was the recipient of the Driver of the Month in May 2018, and Driver of the Year nominee for 2020 by the Indiana Motor Truck Association. The challenge coin program was implemented at Carter Express Inc. as the Carter PRIDE Challenge in 2018, recognizing employees for their exemplary efforts. Don has since gifted his 20 military coins to veteran service members.
Don’s dedication to continuous improvement and making trucking the best industry it can be, is why we at Carter Express, are proud to have him on our team! He wants all of our employees taking pride in all the work they do – down to the smallest of tasks. If we all do this – everyone will win, together! This whole concept is making Carter a great place to work and the stories we get to share back to the entire company, is what makes awarding these Challenge Coins, so rewarding! These folks do not do these amazing things to earn a coin – they do them instinctively, but someone took notice and made sure their efforts did not go unrecognized!! I love this program!!
Driver Relations Manager/Carter Express Inc.
He credits all of his life achievements to Becky, stating that without her support as a military spouse and trucker’s wife none of it would have been possible.
“My wife is the glue that holds me together, she is the rock that our family leans on. When I have a bad day, she is there to pick me up. I think everyone needs someone in their corner that strong.”