U.S. military veterans frequently fade from society's memory.
The aim of truck-manufacturer Freightliner's Ride Of Pride is to remind Americans of veterans' service and honor those dead or missing in action. The custom-built truck led the ride from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day weekend.
Some 250 veterans, dignitaries and guests gathered Thursday in downtown Mooresville for the ninth unveiling of Freightliner's truck that honors deceased veterans for their service.
"Memorial Day is for those who gave all. Veterans Day is for those who served and came home," said Vietnam Air Force veteran Larry Nosker.
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The Freighliner rolling memorial truck has made Richard's Coffee Shop in Mooresville its final preview stop before embarking to Washington, D.C., every year since 2005. The truck is escorted by thousands of motorcycle-riding veterans, from organizations including Rolling Thunder and Patriot Riders, on its journey into the nation's capital.
"There are more veterans who make an effort to get here for the truck than for our regular events throughout the year," said Welcome Home Veterans and Richard's Coffee Shop board member Ralph Dagenheart.
Ed Keeter of Salisbury, a Freightliner employee for 39 years, came up with the idea in 2002 to design, build and paint a truck to commemorate veterans, particularly those missing in action or prisoners of war. "I went to Freighliner and asked them to help me honor veterans in some way, and they wanted to help," said Keeter. The Freightliner's Ride of Pride is in its ninth incarnation in 10 years.
Keeter serves as co-chairman of Ride of Pride with Freightliner retiree George Drexel. Together the two accept bids from Freightliner customers to custom-build a truck that will travel to car and truck shows, shopping centers, veterans events - and specifically to Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day weekend to, as Keeter says, "remind our government" not to forget dead and lost veterans.