Citizen Driver honoree Jon Osburn all about helping others

May 23, 2016

Greg Grisolano


If you’ve ever spent any time around Jon Osburn, you know he can talk to pretty much anybody about pretty much anything. Unless you’re trying to get him to talk about all the things he does to be of service to his fellows.

Osburn, an OOIDA Senior Member from Boise, Idaho, and the “skipper” of the Association’s Spirit of the American Trucker tour truck, is a 2016 TA Petro Citizen Driver honoree. At a ceremony on Friday, May 20, to rename the TA in Boise the J.D. “Doc” Osburn Travel Center, the normally gregarious driver kept his official remarks rather brief.

“I tried to do stuff in my life where I was not in the spotlight, so this is kind of uncomfortable,” he said during the dedication ceremony.

Fortunately, his family, friends and even the folks at TA Petro were only too happy to share their thoughts on Jon’s legacy of service, and what makes him deserving of the award.

Fellow OOIDA Life Member Rene Guenther has known Jon since 2006 when they met at a World’s Largest Convoy for Special Olympics. She said she considers him to be “part of my family.” She and her mother, Dee Lindsay, both of Kingman, Ariz., were there Friday to help him celebrate.

“He’s always there for other people,” Rene said. “He wants to educate the drivers, he wants to do things for the kids … he gives more than he receives.”

The Citizen Driver Award is the company’s way of putting the spotlight on the thousands of American men and women who make up the ranks of professional truck drivers.

The winners all have exemplary safety records, are involved in their communities, and serve in leadership capacities in the industry and in their personal lives.

“Our country’s entire economic fabric is based on what these professionals do. They deliver our nation’s products, raw materials, clothes, automobiles, food, building materials and just about anything else that moves our economy…” said Barry Richards, TA Petro executive vice president, who was on hand to attend the unveiling ceremony.

In addition to new signage on the building’s exterior, a framed display board is posted inside the lobby, featuring photos of Jon and his co-pilot, Sassi, as well as a story about his record of service.

That record includes a decorated military career in the U.S. Navy, including three tours of duty as a combat medic in Vietnam. He spent years as a paramedic in the civilian world before transitioning to trucking in the 1980s. Since becoming a trucker, he’s accumulated over 2.75 million miles of safe driving. He founded the Medical Education and Resources Vehicle, better known as “The MERV” to provide basic medical and screening services to truckers across the country.

He’s also been a volunteer at the World’s Largest Truck Convoy since 2004, and a founding member of Truckers United For Charities.

While working as a flight paramedic in New Mexico, he also saved the life of fellow 2016 Citizen Driver honoree and OOIDA Life Member Candy Bass, who was involved in a near-fatal highway crash.

Rick Ash, OOIDA Life Member and himself a 2015 Citizen Driver honoree was one of the folks who nominated Jon for the award, on behalf of the Trucking Solutions Group – a group of drivers who work together  to share ideas and best practices to improve the trucking industry.

Rick said he and fellow TSG member Linda Caffee – a 2014 Citizen Driver honoree and OOIDA Life Member – spent about two months trying to coax out of Jon a detailed list of his many service accomplishments, something he was reluctant to divulge.

“We do a lot of things for our communities, for the industry and so forth, not to receive awards or get recognition,” he said. “We do things because it’s the right thing to do and because we care. And that’s the way Jon is as well. But when you enter into the process of this award, one of the hardest parts is you have to really pat yourself on the back. Because the difference between winning the award and not could be one or two little things you left off of the application.”

Jon’s list in particular was “pretty long” according to Rick. Picking just one thing to define Jon’s legacy of service would be almost impossible, but Rick says looking over the application, a clear theme emerged.

“If you look back at his qualifications, whether it’s his service for his country in the Navy or the time he spent driving the MERV, or even what he’s doing now, driving the Spirit truck for OOIDA, Jon’s all about helping other people. That’s what the award is about.”

After the ceremony was over, Jon was able to elaborate a bit on what the award means to him.

“It was neat to have my family and friends and everybody there,” he said. “But to be told ‘you did this, and you did this, and you did this,’ it’s like, did I really? I thought I was just doing my life and trying to be the kind of person that I always wanted to be. Maybe you’re blessed when you take a position and make it all you can be. That’s what I’ve done at EMS, that’s what I’ve done at Mayflower, and that’s what I’ve tried to do at OOIDA.”

For Jon, just being nominated was a tremendous honor. More than 100 drivers around the U.S. were nominated, and eight honorees were announced at a banquet at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville in April.

“To be a semi semifinalist to me was like ‘Wow! Mount Everest!’ And then to get called and said ‘Oh you’re in the next round …’ and then to get that phone call that you are one of the chosen … I said ‘you’ve got the wrong number.’”

To date, 19 of the 21 Citizen Driver honorees are also OOIDA members. LL

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.