CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Life after military can be a challenging road for veterans trying to navigate into the civilian world.
Ashley Leiva from Gregory is one of those veterans.
Life as a trucker is an open road these days for Ashley Leiva. But it wasn't exactly the path she thought she would eventually take.
Yet, being a woman in a male-dominated field comes naturally for her.
Ashley served 15 years of military service as a Sergeant First Class in
Senior Culinary Management. Her service included two combat tours of duty in Iraq.
Army life provided Ashley — a single mom of 5-year-old Olivia — a steady paycheck and stability.
“I appreciate it,” Ashley said. “It taught me so much to appreciate the little things I had.”
But a bump in the road would force Ashley to shift gears when her mother, Noemi, passed away in February 2021.
Ashley immediately ended her military service six months before she planned.
“She was everything to me,” said Ashley of Noemi, also a single mom. “There was never a time we were without because she was always — she was always working.”
Noemi Leiva was hoping to retire after driving for her own trucking company for 20 years. While cancer may have ended Noemi's road journey, it was just the start of Ashley's new career.
She and her brother Johnny turned to Del Mar College. She took a class for veterans who are changing lanes to civilian life and received her commercial driver's license.
“She came in with a goal and she fulfilled her goal, and now she's fulfilling one of her dreams,” said Juan Soto, military veteran and instructor at Del Mar College’s Transportation Training Services
“I love it. It's something I'll do for the rest of my life,” smiled Ashley.
Ashley is now behind the wheel of her mom's business. To honor her mom, she and her brother changed the company’s name from Leiva Trucking, to Noemi Trucking.
“Just having that name stick around — it just means a lot,” Ashley said.
And there is some exciting news for Ashley: Del Mar College nominated her for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Transition Trucking Driving for Excellence Award program.
Ashley is one of 11 and the only female finalist with a chance to win a fully equipped $155,000 Kenworth T680 Next Gen rig.
Her selection was based on various criteria including a successful transition from
military into civilian life as a truck driver, and their focus on safety in the profession.
The Transition Trucking initiative began in 2016 and is part of the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hire Our Heroes Program.
Ashley will find out Dec. 16 if she wins.
Contact Veterans In Focus reporter Pat Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org