Serving Those Who Serve


Members of the military are committed to serving their country, and the nation’s truckstops and travel plazas often go above and beyond to serve the soldiers who stop at their locations.

Earlier this year, the Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza, Sacramento, had more than 2,000 members of the Army pass through its doors in a three-day period. To serve them, Tristen Griffith, general manager at the location, worked with the troop coordinator, created troop specials and stocked extra supplies. What’s more, she did it all with only two days notice.

“After the initial panic, we amped up our staffing, ordered in extra hot dogs, went out and purchased cell phone chargers, and then strategized on how to filter them through the store and bathrooms,” she said.

A total of 50 busses with about 40 soldiers on each arrived over three days. The soldiers deployment overseas had been canceled and they were being reassigned from Barstow military base to an Army base in Washington State.

Griffith said there have never been that many people in the location at once. “We were so impressed by their courtesy and politeness. Because of this, we never realized there were 250 people in the store at once,” she said.

The troops lined up outside the location and then made their way through the store and restrooms. “We opened up several of our showers just so we had more restroom stalls,” Griffith said.

After the first bus arrival, Griffith and her staff realized that all of the soldiers wanted to charge their cell phones while they waited, so they brought out extension cords with multiple outlets. “They hung out in our restaurant and game room near the outlets as well,” she said. “They were very thankful.”

Before the soldiers arrived, Sacramento 49er worked with the troop coordinator to create and promote troop specials on candy bars, hot dogs, Pop Tarts and drinks. Griffith said portable cell phone chargers were a popular item among the soldiers, as were food items. “There was a mix between those that purchased healthier foods/drinks and sodas/candy bars,” she said.

In addition to serving the bus-loads of soldiers, staff at Sacramento 49er continued to serve professional drivers and the traveling public. Griffith said her customers were supportive of the troops.

“A lot of the truckers were giving fist pumps and a couple even gave hugs as they were former troops,” she said. “In fact, we were going to move one of the drivers to the front of the line so he didn’t have to wait, and the trucker said, ‘Absolutely not! That is not right. They must go first.’”









Whether locations are serving busloads of troops, soldiers passing through or military veterans, there are several ways they can show their support for those who either are serving or have served. Here are a few ideas:

  • Encourage your employees to express thanks whenever they see someone in uniform or a veteran.
  • Create military specials that you can offer on patriotic holidays, such as the Fourth of July or Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.
  • Organize a care-package party and provide a location for customers to drop off items you can send to those stationed overseas. The group Blue Star Moms can help you coordinate with soldiers who could use a package.
  • Accept financial donations for the USO, which provides care packages and other support for members of the military.
  • Provide staff with time off to visit a veterans’ hospital.
  • Hold a special lunch for members of your staff who have served in the military.
  • Work with your local VA to generate ideas on how you can honor veterans in your community.


Photo Credit: Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza


This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations.

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Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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