Ride of Pride honors veterans

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 27, 2011

CLEVELAND — Employees at the Freightliner plant again this year volunteered to create a one-of-a-kind Ride of Pride truck to honor veterans.
They used a Cascadia model with a Detroit Diesel DD15 engine to create an eye-popping, super-sized symbol of the company’s respect for those who have served their country.
The customized truck left Daimler Trucks North America’s Freightliner Truck manufacturing plant in Cleveland on Friday and was escorted to Washington, D.C., by hundreds of motorcyclists as part of an annual Memorial Day ceremony.
Before the 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.
Schneider National, based in Green Bay, Wisc., bought the truck, which 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,” Schneider National Vice President Mike Hinz said.
The 2011 truck joins the 2007 and 2008 trucks, which have become rolling tributes to the U.S. military. They convey how both Daimler and Schneider feel about those who make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country’s freedoms, Hinz said.
“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,” he said.”
This year’s Ride of Pride artwork is 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.
This is the ninth year Freightliner plant employees have helped coordinate the truck design, local outreach and a 400-mile ride from the plant to the U.S. Capitol.
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 said.
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 said.
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.
Jeff Edwards, a Schneider driver based in London, Ky., 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.
On Sunday, the group will join a procession through the capitol with nearly a million motorcyclists participating in the Ride for Freedom, which is sponsored by Rolling Thunder, a national non-profit with 80 chapters dedicated to publicizing POW-MIA issues.