Recognition, Reunions and Romance. A Patriot Fleet Story

My name is Jim Krueger, and I’m a Rock Star! It’s the only way I can describe the feeling I get whenever I pull into the fuel island at the truck stop or check in at a customer for a pick up or delivery. Let me explain. I’ve been with Crete for nearly ten years. Since November 11, 2014 I’ve had the honor of driving a Patriot Fleet Truck for Crete. Almost every time I stop, someone walks up to the truck and says how much they appreciate seeing veterans honored in this way and ask to take pictures (usually with me in front of the truck). I also get a lot of attention on the road. People slow down beside me, stare, smile, take a picture, and give a thumbs up, salute or beep their horn. I kindly return the gesture. No autographs—yet.

I remember the day I received the call from my fleet manager, Julie Boyanowski. It was in July 2014. She said the New Kingstown terminal was to provide the name of a driver they felt should be one of the next recipients of a Patriot Fleet Truck and said my name was the first to come up. I thought to myself, “They really like me! Am I doing that good of a job? You want me? I’d be honored!”

It seemed that my stars were aligning. I had just recently reconnected with one of my soldiers that served with me in Iraq in 2004. Ken Colson was a planner for Crete. He saw my name come up on his screen while covering for the Northeast planner. He messaged me to confirm the connection, and informed his supervisor of his discovery. They arranged an impromptu reunion for us in Lincoln and gave us some time to catch up. Fast forward a few weeks and Ken gave me the keys to my very own Patriot Fleet Truck.

Ken let me know about a reunion our Army Transportation Company was having in March of 2015. I would never have known, because I don’t do social media. The reunion was my first opportunity to show my truck at an event. It was cool that it was an event I was a part of. I was really proud to show it off. Some of the guys remembered how hard I was on them and tried to find flaws in my detail job. They joked that it passed inspection. Everyone loved the truck! They took a lot of pictures and we even got the hotel manager to take a group photo for us.

I hadn’t seen nor heard from any of my soldiers for ten years. It was really nice to visit with them and hear what accomplishments they had achieved. One person in particular I swore to never lose contact with again. Her name is Cathy. We were battle buddies in Iraq. She was my Platoon Leader and I was the Platoon Sergeant. We were inseparable as we led our soldiers on convoys all over Iraq and vowed to bring everyone home alive. We did. She felt the same way, never wanting to lose contact again. I thought, “She thinks my truck is sexy!” Fast forward to 2018—we’re getting married this Veterans Day!

Two months after the reunion I fell and broke my heel bone. It was painful, but not as painful as having to empty out the truck for another driver to pick up. I was out of work for 16 weeks. My truck was rewrapped for another veteran and I was back in a regular truck. I didn’t mind too much at that point. Crete had taken care of me while I was out and eagerly welcomed me back to work when I was healed (pardon the pun). I was back to work for about five months when I received a call from Issac Phillips asking if I’d like to have another Patriot Fleet truck. Well, of course I would! “How nice of them,” I thought, “that I could continue to be a Patriot Fleet member having had only six months in the first truck.” Crete really knows how to treat their drivers!

In May 2017 Cathy and I showed the truck at an Honor Flight event in Omaha and Lincoln. There were over 800 veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars who were finally getting the welcome home ceremony they deserved. We spoke with several of them who told us how great it was that Crete was honoring veterans in such a way, and wished they had that kind of support in their time of service. I think it was fitting that the truck has “Thank you for a job well done” on the side. It portrays the message to each individual veteran that their service and sacrifices are greatly appreciated.

Recently two of us Patriot Fleet Drivers were asked to be interviewed for a show on Lifetime Network. They asked us how our transition went from military to civilian life—and particularly how Crete played a part in our transition. I was eager to tell them how respectful Crete has been to me and how much they appreciate the skills and work ethic veterans bring to the company. It was difficult to put into words how grateful and honored I am to work for Crete and to have the opportunity to represent them in with this truck. I was also honored on the field at the Lincoln Saltdogs baseball game that day and attended the Crete employee appreciation event the next day.

Crete has always treated me with dignity and respect. They ensured I was home in time for weekend drills with the Army Reserves without fail. When I was called to active duty again after only 15 months with the company they immediately granted my request for a leave of absence. When I returned 22 months later I was greeted with open arms—literally. J.R. Zeigler, the terminal manager, saw me come in and ran over to me, gave me a hug, and said “Jim! Welcome back!”. I am so happy to have found an employer that respects veterans the way Crete does. They don’t just say it. They show it!

I guess hard work and dedication pays off. I’ve been entrusted to represent Crete and all of its veteran employees to the nation’s motoring public from coast to coast and I appreciate it. It feels like being promoted to the non-commissioned officer ranks. Driving this truck down the highway says “No one is more professional than I. I am a Patriot Fleet driver.” With that comes a greater responsibility. I aspire to be the best representative of Crete I can be. I keep my equipment clean and well maintained. I deliver all loads safely and on time. I’m available when I say I’m going to be. I choose the hard right over the easy wrong. I’ve always been this way. Being a driver for Crete will be the last job I’ll ever have. I plan to stay until I retire.