At Crete Carrier, being inducted into the Patriot Fleet means a lot.

Last Friday, five more men found out just how much.

The Patriot Fleet, established in 2012 by the Lincoln-based trucking company, is a fleet of semi-truck tractors decorated with decals that honor all branches of the United States Armed Forces.

Each year, five Crete Carrier employees who are veterans are inducted into the fleet and given a brand new tractor.

"It's a rolling billboard honoring them," said the trucking company's president, Tim Aschoff. "We recognize them as drivers and the motorist public can recognize them as having served our country."

This year, the five chosen were Warren Hartmann, a 21-year Army veteran, Matt Nikkel, a 15-year Navy veteran, Frank Parker, an eight-year Air National Guard Veteran, Roy Radford, a nine-year Marine Corps veteran, and James White, a 15-year Air Force veteran.

The men have all been employed at the company for at least five years and have millions of miles of travel time between them. Each was chosen after process that evaluates them on years of service with the military, years of service with the company, their safety record and a phone interview, said Crete Carrier Program Manager Issac Phillips, who heads the process. Employees can either apply or be recommended by fellow employees.

On Friday, Phillips and Aschoff were joined by special guest speaker Major Gen. Daryl Bohac of the Nebraska National Guard to present the men with their keys. Bohac thanked the men for their service and told them that the same qualities that were required of them in the military were also required of them in their jobs at Crete Carrier.

"It's showing discipline, showing initiative, being loyal, being dedicated and being part of a team," Bohac said. "It's where your individual success takes a backseat."

Frank Parker, the eight-year Air National Guard Veteran, has been a truck driver for over 30 years after leaving the Air National Guard in 1981.

Parker has been with Crete Carrier for 19 years; he works at a terminal in Woodstock, Georgia, and drove up for the ceremony. He was joined by his wife, daughter and grandchildren on Friday.

"I still just have this 'wow' feeling," he said of being chosen for the fleet. "It's unbelievable. When you look at your life and what the future will bring, you never expect this. Am I blessed or what?"

Veterans and military personnel make up 30 percent of Crete Carrier's workforce. The company offers a Veteran Affairs-approved military apprenticeship, a twelve-month program that allows service members who are transitioning from the military to receive on-the-truck training with and be eligible to receive additional compensation from their GI Bill.

Parker is one of the graduates from the program and thanked the company for what they do for veterans like himself.

"It's a great place to work with great compensation and great benefits," he said. "I know I'll be retiring here."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or hmuslic@journalstar.com.

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Reporting intern

Hana Muslic is a reporting intern.

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