Some might say that Sean McEndree was lucky. His combat wounds did not kill him. But he doesn’t see it that way. When he was sent home to Texas after sustaining nearly life-ending injuries in Iraq, he was lost. His true career had been taken away by an insurgent’s IED. He went back into trucking, but it just wasn’t the same. He felt that he could – and should – do more for the ones who weren’t lucky enough to make it home. In 2008 he built a rolling memorial for America’s fallen heroes, and he dedicated that truck to his fallen friend Sgt. Barry K. Meza. Today, Sean’s latest rig has him on a whole new mission – to bring awareness and help to veterans struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Sean was born in Kentucky and raised in Iowa. At about the age of 14, Sean drove a truck for the first time – it was a White cabover with two sticks. After graduating from high school, he went into the Army and really learned how to drive a truck. After eight years, he got out and started trucking as a company driver. He drove OTR for various companies for several years until the war in Iraq began. Feeling like he needed to be there to help, he reenlisted in late 2003.
After being deployed to Iraq in February of 2004, Sean was nearly killed just two months into his tour on April 9th when the convoy he was traveling in was attacked by insurgents. Sean, being a part of the Army’s 13th Corps Support Command of the 96th Transportation Company, 180th Transportation Battalion, stopped the truck he was driving and began to get into a defensive position. As he stepped away from his truck, a planted improvised explosive device (IED), disguised as a Pepsi can lying in the road, was detonated. Sean was blown 30 feet into a ditch. When he tried to stand up to fight back, he was shot in the shoulder. Sean laid in that ditch, bleeding and playing dead, until an MP found him and dragged him into a Humvee.
Once Sean was stabilized, he was flown back to the states for emergency surgery that saved his life. But his recovery would not be easy, as his injuries caused him to lose part of his right lung and liver, his gall bladder, three feet of his large intestine and part of his diaphragm. Sean still has some shrapnel embedded in his chest. But he considers himself lucky. Sean’s buddy Sgt. Barry K. Meza was not so lucky. After helping Sean recover back home in Texas, he was re-deployed to Iraq where he was killed just a few weeks later on December 19, 2004.
We originally met Sean at the Dallas truck show in August 2005. Shortly after that show, Sean’s life took another turn. At the time, he was hauling cattle under his new company name, Veterans Express, and had a black Pete called “Fallen Heroes” to commemorate the fallen warriors in Iraq. On the back of the sleeper, Sean put “Roll Call” and began adding the names of every soldier killed in Iraq. Things were going great until one day, while loading some cattle, a steer got loose and trampled Sean, breaking his leg, dislocating his hip and bruising his lung. “If I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any at all,” remarked Sean. He also joked about how the Iraqis got his right side and the cow got his left side. Not being able to work, Sean was forced to eventually give that truck up.
After taking time off and recuperating, Sean ended up back in a truck. He bounced around for a while and then landed at Oklahoma City-based Freymiller. He liked the family atmosphere, so he stuck around. After a few months, he got involved in their lease/purchase program and bought the company truck he had been driving – a stock 2005 Peterbilt 379 painted Electric Blue. The 265-inch long truck was equipped with a 475 Cat C-15, a 13-speed transmission, 3:36 rears and low-pro rubber. Sean’s wife Diane, sensing that her husband wanted to do something special with the truck but was gun-shy, took it upon herself to start making some phone calls. She began by contacting some military-related organizations and private companies, and pretty soon some donations came in. From there, the first phase of Sean’s next truck began to take shape, and “Fallen Heroes 2” was born.
Sean’s truck spent five weeks at 4-State Trucks in Joplin, MO getting “tricked out” by the team there. Painter Ryan “Ryno” Templeton spent a lot of time on the mural, which covered most of the truck and depicted a large waving flag and rows of headstones in a veteran’s cemetery, among other things. Besides the mural, the truck also had a custom fiberglass hood, dual 359-style headlights, 8-inch stacks, and a custom interior done by ICT that featured wood cabinets, a wood floor, a quilt that was handmade by the ladies at ICT, and an American flag, crafted out of pieces of red, white and blue leather, stitched together to create a unique “patriotic” back wall. This rig graced our cover back in May 2008, and we were lucky enough to get permission to take our pictures inside the beautiful site of the Los Angeles National Cemetery. We could not have imagined a more perfect location for that photo shoot – it was a day we will never forget.
Shortly after the truck hit our cover, Sean, who was preparing for a custody battle with a previous wife for his then 7-year-old twin boys, was advised by his attorney that it would be wise for him to get off the road for a while and stay near home. Heeding his lawyer’s advice, Sean became a recruiter for Freymiller and another veteran got into his truck, which was hard for Sean to endure. Thankfully, the custody battle was short and sweet, and Sean and his wife ended up with full custody of his boys, Brandon and Bryce. Unfortunately, the boys had missed so much school, they were three years behind, so Sean decided to leave Freymiller altogether and stay home with them. At that time, he and Diane also had a 2-year-old boy of their own named Sean, Jr., so Sean had his hands full.
Being a stay-at-home dad for several years, Sean was able to almost completely catch his boys up in school. Today, at 15 years old, they are only one year behind. Their other son is now 10 years old, and doing great, too. Sean’s wife Diane also recently became a “lunch lady” at the boy’s school, so that has also been helpful with their progress. But, all of this time at home (and NOT in a truck) was beginning to take its toll on Sean. Needing an outlet, in 2013 he got involved in an organization called “Ride 2 Recovery” (www.ride2recovery.com) which helps wounded veterans recover, rehabilitate and reintegrate through bicycle trips in various locations.
Using custom “adaptive” bikes to suit just about any disability, many of the veterans that participate in the “Ride 2 Recovery” events are missing arms, legs or both, but all are shown that they can still participate and thrive in civilian life. On one trip, Sean led a group of veterans to Europe, where they pedaled through some significant WW-II battle sites around France and Belgium. On another trip, Sean and his group pedaled 600 miles across the state of Florida in five days. Trips like these were therapeutic for not only the veterans in his groups, but for Sean, too. As a wounded veteran and Purple Heart recipient himself, Sean still struggles with PTSD and severe anxiety on a regular basis.
In 2014, Chris Porter, one of Sean’s Army buddies, called to tell him about a program being offered by Quality Carriers (QC), a tanker-yanker outfit based in Tampa, Florida, in conjunction with DB Kustom Trucks in Antioch, Illinois. Knowing that he was ready to get back into a truck, Sean was very excited. And not just ANY truck – one as good or better than his last one. Getting into this special lease/purchase program, DB Kustom Trucks built Sean his dream rig and then he put it to work as an owner operator at QC. Although the program has not turned out to be super successful, as many of the trucks built by DB have changed hands a few times, it has worked out well for Sean and some others.
Sean’s latest ride, seen on our cover and centerfold (and these pages here) is called “Band of Brothers” but most know it as the Purple Heart tribute truck. Sean found the original truck, a used 2006 Peterbilt 379 with a fresh 550-hp Cat C-15, at a dealership in Shreveport, Louisiana. Painted gray with blue fenders and a blue roof and featuring a 63-inch flattop, an 18-speed, and a 280-inch wheelbase, the original truck was pretty solid, and made for a great start. Wanting to make sure QC was a good fit while he waited for his truck to be built, Sean signed-on as a company driver for a few months and then rented a truck and became an owner operator at QC. It took DB about eight months to build Sean’s truck, but it was finally ready to roll in December of 2015, and he couldn’t have been any more excited or ready.
After being stripped down to the rails, the truck was completely rebuilt from the ground up. The Plum Crazy purple paint (and black frame) were sprayed by T/A Paint & Body in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, while Ron Miles at RMJR painted the engine and then rebuilt and painted the rear-ends and transmission. The truck has a 12 Ga. air-ride kit, a Rockwood grille surround, Fibertech front fenders, and shaved and painted single square headlights, fitted with HID lights from Trux (all of the lights are “Dual Revolution” LEDs from Trux). It also has Fibertech drop panels, double hump fiberglass fenders and a rear T-bar with stainless inserts (both from Bad Ass Customs), painted tanks, visors, mirror brackets and window chops. General Tire supplied all of the rubber, while Dynaflex provided the 8-inch Monster Stacks. But what really sets this truck apart from the rest is the wrap. Mike at Road Rage Designs in Spring Grove, Illinois, put over 200 hours into designing the wrap, which includes muted images of eagles, flags, stars, the Purple Heart medal, soldiers in action, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and heavy duty military transport vehicles.
The interior of this truck is striking, too. Most of the work was done by Jeff Swanson at 49 Customs, which includes a painted dash (black upper panels and purple lower panels), white dash panel inserts, new black carpet, new black leather seats, and custom door panels with painted inserts. The dash features a full gauge package, as well as custom chrome air brake knobs engraved with the Purple Heart emblem, and a custom 500-watt stereo system with two 10-inch subs, which was installed by Sound Decisions. It also has custom pedals, a chrome Rockwood shifter with a marble knob, and a painted steering wheel with a custom horn button featuring a Purple Heart coin in the center.
Sean is so excited to be back behind the wheel, and thanks all of the people who helped make that dream become a reality. People like Chris Porter, Mike Ostergaard, Dan at DB Kustom Trucks and, most importantly, his family, for being so patient and tolerant of him while he was at home for all those years. But, with this new truck comes a new mission – to educate people about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and to encourage those with it to seek help. “The worst thing you can do is not talk about it,” said Sean. If you are struggling with PTSD, Sean suggests that you contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (www.va.gov), your local American Legion (www.legion.org), or just find another veteran to talk to. “Get together with like-minded people and just talk – it will help you tremendously.”
Running really hard for QC, Sean is not home very often. He typically stays out for 4-6 weeks at a time, and then might get a weekend off (sometimes it’s just a day). But, Sean is a hard worker, and he is committed to getting the job done. And with his new mission and focus to help people with PTSD, including himself, Sean McEndree is on-track to do many more great things. That insurgent’s IED may have taken Sean’s military career away, but it certainly did not take away his ability to continue fighting the good fight – here at home – where it is needed most.