After serving in the Army for 20 years, Ivan Hernandez was concerned that his post-military career won’t be as fulfilling as his military service.
Then he found the trucking industry and it has had a profound impact on his life.
“I wanted to find a career path that felt like I was continuing my mission of serving. Trucking provided the opportunity to learn a new skill, to explore the nation I protected and to gain knowledge of an industry that also loves to serve this nation,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez is one of four finalists for the 2020 Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award. For the fifth consecutive year, Hiring Our Heroes, Kenworth Trucking, and FASTPORT are giving a new Kenworth T680 truck to one military veteran rookie driver to start his or her entrepreneurial journey as an owner-operator.
A Focus on Service
Originally from El Paso, Texas, Hernandez enlisted in the Army in 1998. As an infantryman, he completed four deployments collectively to Iraq and Afghanistan where his actions resulted in two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.
Other notable career highlights include his selection to the Army Master Resiliency Trainer course at Penn State and working as an Army ROTC instructor at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina.
Later, he served as a U.S. senior advisor to the Saudi Arabian National Guard. In this role, he assisted in the development of the first Command General Staff College, a senior level military school, for Saudi Arabian military officers.
Hernandez retired from the Army in 2018, but he and his family continue to give back to the military community. His wife’s yoga studio offers free classes to first responders and veterans. In addition, Hernandez has been helping his Iraqi interpreter and his family complete the process for seeking asylum in the United States.
“My Iraqi interpreter meant the world to me while I was deployed overseas. He helped me through a lot of different and difficult situations,” Hernandez said. “I feel like I need to serve him and his family any way that I can.”
Leading by Example
In January 2020, Hernandez graduated from the Roadmaster Drivers School and became a professional truck driver. He’s been employed by Werner Enterprises since February and has a safety record of more than 35,000 accident-free miles. His goal is one million safe miles.
Jafi Roskey, military and specialized programs manager at Werner Enterprises, said Hernandez is among the most motivated drivers at Werner and says that the company’s Operation Freedom Program has asked Hernandez for his expertise many times despite his short tenure. Roskey went on to say that Hernandez has helped promote Werner as a carrier of choice for veterans, as well as truck driving students still in school.
“He has proven himself time and time again. He consistently leads by example and sets the bar high with his hard work,” he said. “Hernandez is excited to do his job every day. His enthusiasm is so abundant that it is infectious.”
The Mission Continues
Trucking is solidifying a bond that began in the military.
“A quick phone call or even (talking) with another veteran at a truck stop has made me feel like I am continuing to help even in the slightest way,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez may be retired from military service, but he isn’t done serving his fellow soldiers.
“The mission continues and moves forward to another chapter,” he said.