Employees at Daimler Trucks North America’s Freightliner Truck manufacturing plant in Cleveland, N.C., customized a Cascadia model truck with a Detroit Diesel DD15 engine, creating a symbol of the company’s respect for veterans. Volvo Trucks also once again sent a commemorative truck to Washington, D.C. as part of the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom taking place during Memorial Day weekend.
This was the ninth year Freightliner’s Cleveland plant employees had volunteered their time to help coordinate the truck design, local outreach and a 400-mile ride from the plant to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. for the Ride of Pride project. This year’s Ride of Pride artwork was designed to show support for active duty personnel, retirees and families who have lost someone in service to the country, as well as for prisoners of war and those still missing in action.
The one-of-a-kind truck was escorted by hundreds of motorcyclists as part of an annual Memorial Day ceremony honoring veterans, POWs and MIAs. Before its Memorial Day weekend trip to join Rolling Thunder, a national motorcyclist group that honors veterans, the truck toured North Carolina, making stops to pay tribute in several communities.
Ed Keeter, formerly a shift manager at Freightliner’s Cleveland truck manufacturing plant and a veteran of the Vietnam War, proposed the project in 2001 when he and other employees were looking for a way to honor veterans as Memorial Day approached. “It is exciting to be affiliated with a company that is so dedicated to its employees, the community, and vets past and present,” Keeter says. Initially the idea was to decorate a Freightliner truck and drive it to the local veterans’ hospital for a visit. “With the support of our plant manager, parent company, vendor partners and the community, the idea just blossomed,” he says. Keeter, who retired from the company in 2009, continues to serve as project lead, assisted by George Drexel, who is a Freightliner employee and also is a Vietnam veteran.
The truck, which is owned by Schneider National Inc., of Green Bay, Wis., will be added to the company’s nationwide fleet of more than 10,000 trucks. “It’s very gratifying to have our organization selected to commandeer the Ride of Pride truck for a third time in its history,” says Mike Hinz, Schneider National vice president. “The 2011 truck joins the 2007 and 2008 trucks, which have become rolling tributes to the U.S. military, conveying how both of our organizations feel about those who make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country’s freedoms. We are indeed honored to have these trucks in our fleet, and we pledge to showcase them – both at events and on our nation’s highways – to make our great service men and women proud.”
Jeff Edwards, a London, Ky.-based driver for Schneider National, was chosen as the driver for this year’s Ride of Pride. Edwards, who has worked at Schneider since 2006, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 12 years and was called to active duty in Iraq in 2003. “It is a special honor to be able to drive this truck and to support those in the Armed Forces and to work for a company that is so supportive of the men and women who serve their country through military service,” Edwards says.
The journey to Washington D.C. began with a send-off ceremony at the plant at 7 a.m. Friday, May 27, and included guest speakers and local dignitaries. On Sunday, May 29, the group joined a procession through the capital with nearly a million motorcyclists participating in the Ride for Freedom, which is sponsored by Rolling Thunder, a national nonprofit with 80 chapters dedicated to publicizing POW-MIA issues.
Volvo’s VNL 670 for the Ride of Pride was designed and developed by Volvo Trucks’ New River Valley plant in Dublin, Va., in conjunction with UAW Local 2069’s Veteran Committee. Volvo Trucks’ one-of-a-kind Volvo VHD pickup truck, adorned with commemorative badging, also made the trip to Washington, D.C., in support of the Ride for Freedom.