ATLANTA -- Vietnam veteran Joe Hunter founded Truckstop Ministries nearly 40 years ago. This week, Chaplain Joe Hunter passed away, and the small ministry he founded to help drivers in metro Atlanta has grown into a movement ministering to drivers in 28 states each week and growing.

Hunter says he learned to drive a truck shortly before joining the US Army.

While in the Army, he drove for a year in Vietnam, then for another six months at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Following his stint for the military, Hunter became a commercial driver, running hauls across the nation.

On the Truckstop Ministries website, Hunter says that over the following 20 years, he found himself in many cities across the nation on Sunday mornings wanting to worship, but with no way to get to a church.

In 1979, he reduced his trucking to regional hauls, which allowed him to minister to drivers stuck in metro Atlanta on the weekend. Hunter says he was given permission to conduct a Bible study at a Clayton County truck stop in 1981.

Chaplain Joe Hunter, founder of Truckstop Ministries

Over the years, Truckstop Ministries began to grow, by partnering with individual drivers, small and large churches, trucking companies and others across the nation.

The ministry began to raise funds and to craft additional resources to spread their ministry. Local Bible study locations began to spring up at truckstops across the country. They were stocked with Bibles, tracts, newsletters, teaching CDs and other teaching materials.

With more donations and volunteers came more expansion. But Truckstop Ministries never forgot where they came from and at their core that was providing support and care for the long-haul trucker who could not get to a traditional church. They distributed Bibles and CDs to truckers to take with them in the event they could not be at a chapel on Sunday morning.

Chaplain Joe continued to maintain the operation from the Georgia headquarters until he fell ill in recent years.

He passed away on July 26 after a two-year-long battle with lung cancer.

On Monday, July 30, at 10:30 a.m., truckers will form a convoy to take Chaplain Joe to his final resting place at the Georgia Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Milledgeville, Ga. His son, Joey, also a long-haul trucker, will drive Chaplain Joe to the cemetery in a truck sponsored by Atlanta Freightliner of Forest Park.