Wreaths Across America's Trucking Tributes Presents J.B. Hunt Transport Services
The Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach is impossible without the transportation industry. Veterans’ wreaths move by planes, trains, and livestock trailers, but trucks and their professional drivers transport the lion’s share of America’s respect. Many of these drivers are veterans and say the truckload of fresh, balsam-fir wreaths is the most precious cargo they transport in their careers. Wreaths Across America highlights their steadfast commitment in the “Trucking Tributes” feature online and on Wreaths Across America Radio.
Professional drivers and trucking companies give so much to the nation. In December, arguably the busiest time of the year for the transportation sector, the Wreaths Across America mission brings them together in an effort of unparalleled unity. That unity, combined with a “can-do” work ethic, makes it possible for Americans to honor millions of veterans laid to rest here at home and overseas. With over 2,500 participating locations and Arlington National Cemetery, transportation logistics are immense.
This Trucking Tributes edition is a love story of sorts. An example of service to our nation; a love of family and country. A young Marine met a Navy nurse in California, and they fell in love. They got married, and each of their four children would go on to serve. One of those children is Eric Airola, Senior Manager of Military and Veteran Relations for J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. Eric is a Marine veteran. “Not only was my father a Marine, but I had an uncle who was a Marine, Vietnam veteran, and I have three siblings, and we have all served,” he pridefully explained. “My sister is still on active duty in the Air Force, but she’s retiring this year.”
With such a rich family legacy of military service, it’s no wonder Eric found himself at J.B. Hunt when he decided to leave the Marine Corps. “I loved the Marine Corps and had some great jobs, but I had a young family at the time, and I really wanted to get into the world of business. Finding a family-oriented company like J.B. Hunt seemed like a good fit.” Eric has been a J.B. Hunt employee for over thirty years, but is relatively new to the position he holds today. “The reason I’m in this position is because of the stance and support J.B. Hunt takes with the military and veteran community. Veterans make up about fourteen percent of our employee population. We’ve been a military-veteran-friendly employer for over thirteen years.”
In January 2020, J.B. Hunt reached its goal of hiring 10,000 veterans in six years, and they continue to ramp it up. “People coming out of the military have skill sets, a great work ethic, and a get-things-done attitude,” Eric describes the focus on talent acquisition. “Many of these people are ready to jump into roles of leadership, and they deal well with people; they’re able to adapt to our systems well. Transitioning-military and veterans usually have those great attributes to bring to a civilian company.”
Many of the veterans employed by J.B. Hunt remain active in the Guard and Reserve, so company support extends well beyond their hire date. “We take care of them when they’re home and their families when they’re gone. We welcome them home from deployments and provide great benefits because we value the service they bring, even today, putting themselves in harm's way.”
J.B. Hunt’s support of the military and veterans is on full display with their company-wide support of the Wreaths Across America mission. “We call out for nominations and had 235 of our drivers nominated by their co-workers, managers, fellow drivers, to have the honor of driving segments [last year]. Ultimately, we had 68 of our drivers participate in hauling 26 loads of wreaths to cemeteries all over the country. We also had over 60 driver key exchange ceremonies with a lot of employee participation. Many have participated in wreath-laying ceremonies at cemeteries our drivers transport wreaths to.”
Thank you, Eric and all of the J.B. Hunt family, for helping us live up to their legacy. You can hear more of Eric’s interview on Trucking Tributes heard every Tuesday at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM EDT on Wreaths Across America Radio.
For a full discussion, tune into "Remember, Honor, Teach" this Friday, May 28 on SiriusXM 146 at 10am ET on The Dave Nemo Show with Jimmy Mac. Missed the segment? Listen on-demand on the SiriusXM smartphone app or internet player.