While some say they wear many hats in life, for Ride of Pride driver, Jon Ritscher, the analogy is more appropriate with footwear. From the shoes of a young Eagle Scout to the boot of a U.S. Army man, and most recently into the footwear of a Schneider truck driver, Jon has gone quite the distance both on his feet and on the road.
Little did he know that after a short stint with Schneider’s Van Truckload Northeast Regional Division, he would step into some even larger shoes.
Born and raised in central California, Jon was actively involved in the Boy Scouts, an affiliation he continued until he became an Eagle Scout. Jon had been thinking the military would be a good fit for him, but his path became crystal clear shortly after the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
“I felt a calling to be part of something bigger than myself.”
In 2002 at the age of 20, he joined the U.S Army.
After basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., and his first duty station at Fort Lewis, Wash., Jon left for a tour in Balad, Iraq. Upon his return to the states, he was stationed in Hawaii until he started his second tour in Tikrit, Iraq. During his time abroad, Jon was part of a support unit that provided fuel to military vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
“You could think of it like a full-service gas station for Army helicopters, but we also provided support and service to all types of aircraft from every branch of the military,” Jon said.
After spending eight years in the U.S. Army, Jon used his GI Bill to obtain his Commercial Driver’s License and began driving with Schneider in July 2013 in the Van Truckload Northeast Regional Division.
“I was used to moving around huge aircraft—towing them and maneuvering them into hangars—where one scratch could be a million-dollar mistake,” Jon said. “So backing a truck seemed like a fairly easy concept and less intimidating than it might be for other new drivers.”
After three years of driving with Schneider, Jon was nominated for a unique experience that pulled from his military experience and sent him across the United States.
In early 2016, Jon was selected to be Schneider’s newest Ride of Pride driver. The Ride of Pride is a series of trucks designed and built by Freightliner to be rolling tributes to members of the United States military–past and present. The stunning tractors are decorated with images representing all U.S. conflicts since World War II.
Having completed two tours in Iraq, Jon has a sense of nostalgia when he looks at his new tractor because he manned convoys similar to those depicted on its passenger side. It’s this history and his humble personality that many appreciate when they stop to see the truck and connect with him by sharing their stories or hearing his.
“While I’m grateful and can’t believe I get the privilege of driving this beautiful truck for a year, I know the truck doesn’t really belong to Schneider or to me,” Jon says. “Meeting the servicemen and women I do is a constant reminder that the truck really belongs to them and their family members.”
Like many drivers, Jon says the hardest part about trucking is being away from his wife and five-year-old son.
“My job causes all of us to have to make sacrifices; but in the end, my wife and I think it’s worth the opportunities my job provides. When I am home, I make sure I enjoy and appreciate every moment.”
Jon’s not the only one to enjoy his time at home. His son loves to climb in the truck and stand in awe of the decals on its side.
“He even knows it’s me before I turn a corner—he knows what the truck sounds like,” Jon says.
Once Jon’s Ride of Pride journey comes to an end, he and the truck will begin hauling freight full-time again.
“I look forward to what lies ahead. You never know what new, unexpected, yet incredibly rewarding opportunity is on the driving horizon.”
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