What does Veterans Day mean to you?
Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors military veterans. It coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other countries. Whatever you call it, the day marks the anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.
In honor of Veterans Day, we at Mid-States Concrete Industries want to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who have served, or are currently serving, in all branches of the military. We also wanted to recognize some of our own Mid-States family who are veterans or are currently serving.
Rich Bergemann, Engineering and Design
Rich served in the Army from 1984 through 2007, spending four years on active duty and 20 years in the Wisconsin National Guard. At the time he was discharged, Rich held the rank of Command Sergeant Major (E9).
Shipping out one week after he graduated from high school, Rich was stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky. He started out as a driver of an M1 Abrams battle tank and worked his way up to gunner. His unit patrolled the East/West Germany border.
In 1988, Rich left active duty to attend school, but continued to serve as part of the National Guard. In 1991, his unit was activated to go to Saudi Arabia. At that time, Rich was a Platoon Sergeant.
In 2005, his unit was activated to Iraq and he served as First Sergeant, overseeing about 300 people. His unit completed four million miles of transport, 308 missions and 158 engagements.
“Everybody came home alive,” Rich said.
In early 2006, Rich was promoted to Command Sergeant Major and was in charge of a battalion of roughly 800 people. In late 2007, he retired from service.
Rich’s time in the military taught him a lot of good counseling and leadership techniques. Despite being retired, Rich still adheres to being on time (which means early), is a big fan of hurry up and wait, and maintains a work hard, play hard mentality.
“Honesty and loyalty are absolutely non-negotiable,” he added.
For Rich, Veterans Day is about looking back on his service and the service of others and showing appreciation for it.
“It’s thanking everybody for their community service,” Rich said.
Sean Croson, Yard
Sean served in the Navy from 2010 through 2014 and was a Petty Officer Second Class at the time he was discharged. He comes from a military family, most in the Navy or Marines, and joined at 20-years-old.
In addition to coming from a military family, Sean was also interested in joining the Navy to get himself out of a bad neighborhood. He served as a mechanical specialist, working on everything from submarines to battleships. Sean was stationed in Fort Worth, Texas and deployed to Afghanistan for six months in 2011. He was the specialist that services Humvees and other military vehicles.
Being in the Navy gave Sean a sense of direction. He learned discipline, and also that there is always something better out there.
“It teaches you to be an adult and a better person,” he said.
From his time in the Navy, Sean gained valuable machining experience and mechanical engineering knowledge. Although he has been with Mid-States for just a short time, he joined the team in Oct. 2016, he has already applied his machining skills to his current job.
To Sean, Veterans Day is representative of those who fought and died for this country and the freedoms we have because of it. It is also his birthday. Sean plans to get together with his grandfather, father and uncles on Veterans Day, to reflect on their experiences in the military. Talking about it provides a sense of relief, he said.
Bill David, Engineering & Design
Bill served in the Air Force from 1987 through 1991 and held the rank of E4 (Senior Airman) when he was discharged. During his time in the Air Force, he served as an electro-mechanical technician on the Minuteman II ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile).
Bill was an ICBM Master Technician and never once received an unqualified grade. Bill, who has been at Mid-States since Oct. 2014, enlisted at 19-years-old, after spending two years in college.
Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, which is part of the Strategic Air Command, was home to 150 missiles on a 13,000-square mile missile field. Bill’s job was troubleshooting electrical faults at the silos and launch control facilities, which he learned how to do at training school.
“These things run 24/7,” Bill said. “There is constantly power to them.”
Interestingly enough, because of the Top Secret/SBI security clearance required to hold this job, Bill had to undergo a special background investigation by the FBI because his mother is from Germany. In addition to investigating whether Bill owned land or had bank accounts in Germany, the FBI also traveled to his hometown of Savanna, Ill. to check things out.
From his time with the Air Force, Bill learned strong discipline. Even now, he is very procedure-oriented and organized. And he still gets his hair cut every three weeks.
For Bill, Veterans Day is about three words: “Freedom. Sacrifice. Honor.”
Paul Drummer, Yard
Paul has served in the Army National Guard since 2004 and currently holds the rank of Sergeant. He spent eight years at Fort Drum in New York and currently serves in the Crestwood, Ill. Unit as a diesel mechanic. Paul has been with Mid-States since July 2015.
Most of Paul’s family has served in the military, and it is a family tradition he wanted to continue. He joined one year out of high school and Paul enjoys the structure and camaraderie of the military, and has learned many things from his service.
“You always have to be prepared for change,” Paul said.
Paul has deployed three times, all to Afghanistan, from 2006-2007, 2008-2009 and for eight months in 2011. During his deployments, he learned that things we take for granted here in the United States, people in other countries don’t have.
“It gave me a lot of discipline,” Paul said of his service. “My whole outlook on life changed.”
Currently, Paul reports for drill once a month and for two weeks in the summer. During drill, he works on trucks and trailers, does qualifications for weapons training and oversees other soldiers.
For Veterans Day, Paul believes it is important to pay his respects to all that have served and think about those he served with. He plans to take a moment of silence to honor all veterans, servicemen and servicewomen on Veterans Day.
Steve Ferg, Maintenance
Steve served in the Air Force from 1971 through 1975 and held the rank of E4 (Sergeant) when he was discharged. He was only 17-years-old when he enlisted, and completed his high school education and received his high school diploma through the Air Force.
With his friends getting into trouble more often, Steve knew he didn’t want to keep hanging out with them, so he looked into his options and landed on the Air Force.
While in the Air Force, Steve, who has worked for Mid-States since Sept. 2002, served as a mechanic and worked on jets with more than two engines. During his four years of service, Steve went where his plane went, so he traveled to Indiana, Illinois, Spain, Hawaii, Thailand, Greenland, Alaska and Goose Bay, Labrador in Canada.
“I got to travel all over and see a lot of the world,” Steve said.
In addition to all of the mechanical skills he learned, which helped him get jobs after his time in the military, Steve learned a lot of respect, too.
For Steve, Veterans Day is a reminder that he did his part, and it’s a time to reflect on his memories of the service.
“I’m happy because this world is a lot better than a lot of them,” Steve said.
Juan Gonzalez, Elematic
Juan served in the Marines from 2012 through 2015 and held the rank of Lance Corporal when he was discharged.
From a young age, Juan knew he wanted to join the Marines. When he was just seven-years-old, it was a commercial that sparked Juan’s interest. The commercial featured a Marine fighting off a lava monster.
“I just knew I wanted to join,” he said.
During his time in the Marines, Juan served as an Expeditionary Airfields/Aircraft Recovery Specialist. That crew serves as a safety net for tactical aircraft landings. He was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan and went on several different exercises throughout the Pacific. His favorite place to see was Guam.
Overall, the Marines taught Juan a lot about character, using proper customs, being courteous and just being respectful.
“The best thing I can say (it taught) is patience,” Juan said.
Juan’s time in the Marines has instilled in him a sense of organization and structure, as well as a good work ethic. He has worked for Mid-States since December 2015.
For Juan, Veterans Day is about paying his respects to those who have served.
Mark Nelson, Yard
Mark has served in the Army National Guard since 2011 and currently holds the rank of Specialist. He completed a couple semesters of college before joining the military, but serving was something he always wanted to do.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time,” Mark said.
Mark has served mainly with Chicago area units and has learned many life skills from serving, including discipline, patience and respect. Mark has been with Mid-States since July 2014.
Although he started out as an engineer, Mark was later reclassified to military police. Mark attends drill once a month and for two weeks in the summer. During drill, he runs exercises and training for both combat and civilian missions. For example, his unit was on call for the World Series games in Chicago, in the event of riots or other out-of-control behavior.
“It’s made me more driven,” Mark said. “It’s given me more of a hardened shell. I don’t take things as personal. I brush it off and don’t let it bother me.”
With Veterans Day coming up, Mark will take some time to think about his time in the service.
“It’s another day to remember those I have served with and recognize that,” he said.
Dean Ruth, Kitting
Dean served in the United States Army from 1989 through 1996 and held the rank of E4 (Corporal) at the time he was discharged. He joined right out of high school.
It was a commercial featuring servicemen, as well as Dean’s family military history, which sparked his desire to serve. But, it was the work that caused him to re-up his contract twice. He served in infantry at Fort Hood, Texas and was deployed to Desert Storm/Desert Shield.
“I like routine,” he said. “That’s a big part.”
Although he was raised with respect and discipline and was taught how to treat others, the military reinforced these things for Dean. He also learned how to read people and think on his feet.
His time in the military has directly helped him here at Mid-States (he has been part of the team since July 2014) because he is able to handle stress well and hold high standards for cleanliness and organization in his work area.
Dean is exceptionally proud of his 15-year-old son Jacob. Jacob wants to join the Air Force and is an active member of the Children of the American Revolution. One of their projects was to write a book about a veteran or service member and Dean’s son chose to write about him. To the Desert and Back was published earlier this year. It is available in some area schools and will be available in some area libraries.
For Dean, Veterans Day is about “honoring all the people that came before me to get our freedom and kept it,” he said. It is also about honoring those people who made a sacrifice for what others won’t, he added.
Tim Vavra, Yard
Tim served in the Army National Guard from 2010 through 2015 and held the rank of E4 (Specialist) when he was discharged. He enlisted when he was just 20-years-old.
“I did it because maybe somewhere down the road, someone else wouldn’t have to, and just to serve my country in general,” Tim said.
Tim has served as both a combat engineer – basically infantry, but with explosives – as well as a horizontal construction engineer – basically a heavy equipment operator. He deployed to Afghanistan from 2011 through 2012.
The job skills Tim acquired as a horizontal construction engineer have helped him in his current position. Plus, his time in the military also gave him the ability to adapt to any situation. He doesn’t take things for granted anymore, like eating, showering and talking to his family whenever he wants to. While he was deployed, he went 149 days without showering.
Because of his skill set, Tim is considered somewhat as a jack-of-all-trades out in the yard, though he does credit his supervisor, Nick Jacobs, with recognizing his abilities and putting Tim to good use. Tim started with Mid-States Concrete Industries in July 2014.
When Tim thinks of Veterans Day, he thinks more of Vietnam, World War II and Korean War Vets and how special what they did was.
“America wouldn’t be what it is today if they hadn’t done it,” Tim said.