A new engine, introduced during a ceremony in Wilmington on Monday, is one way Amtrak is honoring its workers, as well as other men and women, who served in the military.
A group of men wearing military t-shirts and yellow hard hats gathered at the Wilmington, Delaware Amtrak station in front of a large silver train engine painted red, white and blue, and adorned with shadows of men saluting.
“We are America’s railroad, so we believe we should honor America’s veterans,” said Joe McHugh, senior vice president for Amtrak.
“We hope every time people see this engine they’ll give a thought, remembrances, to a veteran they know or to someone who has served in their family.”
The new Veteran’s Locomotive 642, is one of 70 new locomotives that will pull various Amtrak trains along the Northeast and Keystone Corridors. All of the new engines will be maintained in Wilmington. The patriotic engine could start service as early as Tuesday.
Amtrak employs more than 20,000 employees for its network that serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states, D.C. and three Canadian provinces. To date, 21 percent of its new hires are veterans, according to Amtrak.
“We have a very strong history with veterans,” McHugh said. “The railroad industry has been really populated by veterans, and the railroad industry is run like the military. There are strong rules that govern safety, there’s change of command, there’s work done here at our shops that you learn skill sets in military.”
U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper attended the ceremony, as well as U.S. Representative John Carney and Delaware Adjutant General Francis Vavala.
Coons highlighted the importance of transportation and its funding, and congratulated Amtrak’s efforts to hire veterans and acknowledge their sacrifices.
“I think the trajectory for the Amtrak workforce is better and more positive than at any point in the last couple of decades,” Coons said. “The idea our veterans should fight for our freedom overseas and come home and have to fight harder again to find employment is unacceptable. I’m thrilled Amtrak has led the way in having an initiative to reach out to veterans.”
Maurice Patterson, a supervisor at Amtrak who served in the Air Force for 22 years, said he’s grateful for the honor. “When I came back from Vietnam, that was a trying era and there was a whole lot of dissention about the war, and I don’t think veterans at the time got their just due as far as coming home,” he said. “We all came home to a divided country and this in some small way makes up for that.”
John MacColl, a buyer at Amtrak who served in the Army for 23 years, agreed with his co-worker. “It definitely shows recognition, and being recognized for something or being something helps in here,” he said, gesturing his heart.