ELKHART — David York, called out of work along with 50 or so co-workers, initially didn’t know what was going on.
“Kind of caught me off guard,” the Heartland RV employee and U.S. Air Force veteran said. “I didn’t anticipate any of this.”
It was a pleasant surprise, though — the company on Monday, Nov. 4, recognized its employees who have served in the U.S. armed forces. Indeed, Jose Calderon, another Heartland RV worker, couldn’t recall ever before receiving such treatment from an employer.
“This is the first time I’ve seen it at a workplace,” said the U.S. Army veteran from Middlebury.
Company leaders called the workers to Heartland RV’s main headquarters building in northern Elkhart on Monday, taking a group photo for an upcoming newsletter and handing out gift cards. They assembled in front of a huge American flag, with a photographer, cameraman and camera-equipped drone taking photos and video of the group.
“You guys have all played a part in our military and I just wanted to say thank you,” Chris Hermon, the Heartland RV president and an Air Force veteran, told the group. Elkhart-based Heartland RV, a subsidiary of the Thor family of companies, makes fifth wheels.
The event was meant to single out military veterans at Heartland RV and was purposefully timed a week before Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Still, Hermon thinks veterans merit more than just once-a-year attention and he thinks the recreational vehicle industry in Elkhart County, in general, could benefit from the labor of veterans after they leave service.
Mike Bellovich, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Heartland RV’s human resources director, said military veterans applying at the firm for work typically get closer scrutiny than other candidates.
“We think that these folks have given up a portion of their lives to defend the United States,” said Bellovich. Monday’s ceremony and gift cards are “an easy way” to single out their contributions and offer thanks.