It takes a lot of courage to face your fears head on, to commit one’s self to a long-term battle that in some ways may never end.

A lot of folks might shirk such duty, simply because the unending mental strain of such a conflict would be unbearable— especially for those who suffer such strain due to combat duty. Not Jeff Edwards, though.

Many truck drivers might consider driving Ride of Pride trucks cross country to make appearances at a variety of military functions, parades, and truck shows as easy duty.
Indeed, Edwards told American Trucker back in late 2011 that Ride of Pride duties only put him on the road at most two weeks at a time then he gets four or five days off in a row at home with his wife and two kids. And for most of the time, running a Ride of Pride truck meant little to no loading or unloading of freight, just keeping the rig clean and talking to all manner of folks at different events.

Except that talking to people and spending long hours in crowded spaces is often the very last thing Edwards can endure.

The reason for the strain, as this 13-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps explained, relates to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s a severe anxiety disorder that occurs after a person witnesses or experiences a traumatic event that involves the threat of injury or death—and combat is up there at the top of that list.

Edwards served in a variety of hot spots during his time in the Marines—Liberia and Haiti in 1996, then Kosovo and Bosnia in 1999—before deciding to retire. The attacks of September 11 in 2001 changed his mind, though, so he re-upped on September 12, ending up with the 2nd Marine division during the famous “Race to Baghdad” operation in the Iraq War.

A big man at 6-foot-2 and 250 lbs., Edwards served as a TOW missile operator (the acronym stands for “tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire command data link” guided missile) and spent six grueling months under fire. Shortly thereafter, he started experiencing PTSD symptoms—nightmares, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance in crowded places—and got discharged in 2006.

Edwards recently explained how PTSD affected his daily life. A resident of Flat Lick, KY, he’d once taken his two kids into the nearby city of Louisville to watch a college basketball game.

“My wife asked me how the game went, but I never saw it. I kept watching the people around me, ready to grab my kids and run in a second,” he said.
But driving a truck proved therapeutic as well, allowing him to be alone for long stretches, away from the cacophony of modern-day living which often triggered his PTSD. Yet when Schneider put out a call to military veterans in its driver ranks to volunteer to be the 2011 Ride of Pride operator, Edwards never hesitated to apply, despite the difficulties he knew he’d face due to his PTSD.

“The reason I didn’t think twice about it is because of this truck’s mission,” he explained. “Usually, I’m a very quiet person, but when it comes to our military, it’s easy for me to talk.”

He beat out nine other candidates for the job to drive this truck, taking it from one end of the country to the other to participate in a variety of events. But the toughest part of the job—and one part he felt the most wary about— was bringing the truck to military funerals.

“I was worried about it,” Edwards freely admitted. “But once I saw the reaction of the family—once I saw that they lifted up a little bit because it was there—then I was okay with it.”