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Gregory veteran goes from army chief to civilian truck driver

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Life after the military can be a tough road for veterans trying to navigate the civilian world.

Gregory’s Ashley Leiva is one such veteran.

The trucker life is an open avenue these days for Ashley Leiva. But it wasn’t exactly the path she thought she would end up on.

Yet being a woman in a male-dominated field comes naturally to her.

Ashley served 15 years of military service as a Sergeant First Class in
Senior Culinary Direction. His service included two combat missions in Iraq.

Life in the military has provided Ashley – a single mother to 5-year-old Olivia – with steady pay 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, died in February 2021.

Ashley immediately ended her military service six months ahead of schedule.

“She was everything to me,” Ashley said of Noemi, also a single mom. “There was never a time when 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 journey, it was just the start of Ashley’s new career.

She and her brother Johnny turned to Del Mar College. She took a course for veterans switching to civilian life and got her commercial driver’s license.

“She came in with a goal and she achieved it, and now she’s fulfilling one of her dreams,” said Juan Soto, a military veteran and instructor with Del Mar College Transportation Training Services.

“I love it. It’s something I will do for the rest of my life,” smiles Ashley.

Ashley is now driving her mother’s business. To honor her mother, she and her brother changed the company name from Leiva Trucking to Noemi Trucking.

“Just having that name around – it just means a lot,” Ashley said.

And there’s exciting news for Ashley: Del Mar College has nominated her for the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Transition Trucking Driving for Excellence award program.

Ashley is one of 11 and the only female finalist with a chance to win a $155,000, fully loaded Kenworth T680 Next Gen truck.

His selection was based on various criteria, including a successful transition from
military to civilian life as a truck driver and their concern for occupational safety.

The Transition Trucking initiative began in 2016 and is part of the United States
Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hire Our Heroes Program.

Ashley will find out on December 16 if she wins.

More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.

Contact Veterans In Focus reporter Pat Simon at


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