Veterans play a key role in the success of Norfolk Southern Corp.
Norfolk Southern employs more than 4,200 veterans and has hired more than 1,200 over the last six years and more than 200 in 2012, said Don Faulkner, general superintendent of Norfolk Southern's Juniata Locomotive Shop.
Norfolk Southern on Thursday unveiled a one-of-a-kind "Veterans Locomotive," which will be placed into freight service on its system to honor people who have served in the military and reserves, especially those employed by the railroad.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Norfolk Southern unveiled a commemorative locomotive honoring the country’s veterans on Thursday at the Juniata Locomotive Shop. Employee Dave Belles of Duncansville snaps some photos of the No. 6920.
No. 6920 is an SD60E model, which was built and painted at the Juniata shop.
It will operate primarily in general freight service. Its red, white, and blue paint scheme, and yellow ribbon with the message "Honoring our Veterans," was selected by a group of 18 NS employees representing all branches of the armed forces.
Painting the Veterans Locomotive involved 26 Norfolk Southern employees, two of whom are veterans, using 66 gallons of primer and paint over a 112-hour period.
With its nontraditional paint scheme, the locomotive joins Norfolk Southern's Heritage Fleet of 20 locomotives that were painted in the schemes of key predecessor railroad companies earlier this year in observance of the company's 30th anniversary.
Dave Sunderland of Bellwood, a combat veteran and 24-year member of the U.S. Army Reserves, was one of the veterans who helped paint the locomotive.
"I felt proud that we could do something like that. It is awesome, it shows to me my employer cares about veterans and military people," said Sunderland, who works as a carman and painter at the shop.
General Foreman Tim Strickenberger and Trainmaster Calvin Law praised Norfolk Southern for hiring veterans like themselves.
"When we leave the military we have a lot of uncertainty about careers. I've been employed at Norfolk Southern since early 2007. I am an exception. Many veterans struggle to find employment post-military," said Strickenberger, a former U.S. Air Force staff sergeant who served as an F-16 aircraft mechanic during U.S. operations in the Middle East. "Veterans are gratified to be part of a company that honors veterans the way it does."
"It can be frightening to retire from the military. I found myself at a military job fair and Norfolk Southern stood out to me," said Law, a 26-year U.S. Navy veteran who served as a lieutenant commander during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. "After joining the Norfolk Southern team, they provided the training, structure and support that made the transition from the military to be a smooth one. This is a company that understands and appreciates our military servicemen."
Guest speaker Col. Grey Berrier II, deputy commander, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, said the military and railroad have run a parallel course throughout history and called the railroad the logistical backbone of our country.
Berrier, who said he has family ties to Norfolk Southern - his father retired as a Norfolk Southern engineer - appreciates the company's effort to recruit veterans.
"They bring an established work ethic and are safety conscious. They also are punctual and are used to being part of a team and follow standard operating procedures. They are also drug-free and are used to working in a dangerous environment and taking leadership when required," Berrier said. "I like to think that thousands and perhaps millions will swell with pride when the veterans locomotive goes past them on the rails."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.