Escorted by hundreds of motorcyclists from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., the Freightliner Ride of Pride made its seventh annual trip to honor America’s veterans, POWs and MIAs.
The unique truck leading the way was a Freightliner Cascadia, fully customized with symbols of the United States and its armed forces. Designed at Freightliner’s Cleveland, N.C., plant, the 2008 Ride of Pride toured North Carolina in May before making the Memorial Day weekend trip to the Rolling Thunder rally in Washington, D.C.
Vietnam veteran Ed Keeter, a shift manager at the Cleveland plant, said the idea for Ride of Pride came in 2001, when he and other employees were looking for a way to honor veterans as Memorial Day approached.
“At the plant we had a number of reservists who were being called up for active service, so we wanted to support them and other vets past and present,” Keeter said. Initially the idea was to decorate a Freightliner and drive it to the local veterans’ hospital for a visit. “With all the volunteer support, the idea just blossomed, and we decided to go all the way to Washington, D.C., and back,” Keeter said.
Employees at the Cleveland plant volunteer their time to design the artwork and coordinate the 400-mile ride. This year’s truck features an American flag, a bald eagle, the POW-MIA emblem and symbols from each military division, all decaled over the orange cab owned by Schneider National, which will add the rig to its fleet.
This year’s Ride of Pride driver was Gordon Turnovsky, a 16-year Schneider veteran and an active member of the U.S. Army for the past 18 years.
“This event brings great pride to everyone involved in it,” said Lamando Parker, an employee at the Cleveland plant who is heading back to Iraq this summer. “The truck has high visibility on the road, which helps us honor our fallen heroes.”
“The Ride of Pride symbolizes respect for — and pride in — our servicemen and women around the world,” said Dennis Damman, director of engineering for Schneider National. “Schneider’s commitment to safety and service go hand in hand with the military’s pledge to protect and serve our country. The opportunity to have one of our drivers behind the wheel for the second year in a row is a tremendous privilege.”
The journey to Washington, D.C., began with a sendoff ceremony at the plant at 7:30 a.m. Friday, May 23, that included guest speakers and a flyover by a Black Hawk helicopter from the North Carolina National Guard. While in Washington, D.C., volunteers threw a party for veterans at Washington Hospital Center and handed out gift bags filled with items donated by Daimler employees in North and South Carolina.
On Sunday, May 25, Ride of Pride joined the Ride for Freedom motorcycle procession through the capital, sponsored by Rolling Thunder, a national non-profit dedicated to publicizing POW-MIA issues.