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J.B. Hunt Honors Veterans, Employs Them

3 min read

Craig Harper said participating in Wreaths Across America gave him goose bumps.

Harper, executive vice president of operations at J.B. Hunt Transport Services of Lowell, helped escort a company trailer full of wreaths from Maine to Fayetteville National Cemetery, where volunteers helped lay them on the tombstones of veterans during a ceremony Dec. 13. Harper rode from Nashville, Tennessee, in a truck driven by Michael Stansbery Sr., a former Marine and a J.B. Hunt employee.

Each of the legs of the convoy was driven by a J.B. Hunt employee who was also a veteran. Harper and J.B. Hunt CEO John Roberts III attended the wreath-laying ceremony, and Harper gave a short speech. 

“It’s a memorable and emotional day,” Harper said. “It’s when you look across these rolling hills and you see the marble tombstones, it causes us to reflect and remember our veterans.”

For Harper — and J.B. Hunt — honoring and remembering veterans isn’t a publicity stunt. The company has been ranked highly by G.I. Jobs magazine as a military-friendly employer for nine consecutive years, including seventh nationally for the year 2005.

Just in the past few months, J.B. Hunt announced its recommitment to the Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve program and pledged to hire 10,000 veterans by the year 2020. After Harper signed the ESGR commitment in July, he was contacted by a woman named Tammy Stansbery, who lives in the Nashville suburb of Mount Juliet.

Stansbery said she appreciated the company’s support of the military and mentioned that her husband, Michael Sr., was a J.B. Hunt driver. Their son, Michael Jr., was an Army specialist who died in action July 30, 2010, in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. 

Tammy Stansbery sent Harper a video showing the family meeting the soldier who had pulled their son off the combat field. When it came time to hitch a ride in Nashville, Harper naturally chose Michael Sr., who had seen action as a Marine in Iraq during Desert Storm.

“It means so much to the people who have done it,” Harper said. “It’s important to the whole country. We have so many freedoms, and if you don’t take the time out to think about it, you can take that for granted.”

Harper said he never served in the military but has a deep appreciation because his father-in-law served in World War II. The company originally committed to ESGR in 2008 but renewed that vow as a public show of how important executives believe it is to support reservists and guard members while they work for the company and serve their country.

J.B. Hunt is the state’s largest trucking company with more than $5.5 billion in revenue and 18,000-plus employees in 2013. The company estimates that about 16 percent of its employees are veterans.

The trucking industry nationally is experiencing a driver shortage, so it would seem a good match for returning veterans to be hooked up with trucking companies desperate for quality drivers. 

(I should note here that Maverick Transportation of North Little Rock has also pledged through Hiring Our Heroes to hire 1,000 veterans in the next two years.)

Harper said J.B. Hunt’s veterans are employed throughout the company, and he is mighty thankful for that, too.

“We appreciate what they did [in service], but let me tell you, they make some of our best workers, too,” Harper said. “We have them in all aspects of the company, whether it’s in an office, in sales, in the shop. They have found their way into all different types of jobs with J.B. Hunt.”

While I was at the cemetery I thought I would ask a veteran how important it was that home businesses made commitments to help returning veterans. So I asked Ronny Sweger, a former member of the Special Forces who co-founded the Foundation for Exceptional Warriors, which helps counsel returning wounded soldiers.

“A lot of soldiers wouldn’t take a [charity] check,” Sweger said. “They would take a job. They want to support their family honorably. J.B. Hunt lets them do that. It’s a win-win.” ν

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