By Tom Lambert
The Army recruiter patiently waited as Cres Hernandez hugged and kissed his mom. The tears streamed down her face.
Hernandez bid farewell to the rest of his family, hopped into the recruiter’s vehicle and drove away from his Saginaw home. He was off to boot camp in Georgia – only his second time ever in a plane.
He was about to become a U.S. Army Ranger, just weeks after graduating high school. He wouldn’t see his family for 18 months; he’d be deploying after basic training and the Ranger Indoctrination Program. It was a sacrifice he reflects on often 30 years later, especially during Veterans Day.
“My mom was in tears when I left for bootcamp, and then when I was deployed, I don’t think she stopped crying for the 18 months I was away,” said Hernandez, site production manager at the Karn Generating Complex. “When I returned, I had changed physically quite a bit, but also mentally. My family and friends could see the change. It was tough on my family, but they knew I made the right decision.”
Hernandez, who served as an Army Ranger from 1990 to 1995, said he is proud to work with the hundreds of military veterans at Consumers Energy. They are grateful for Veterans Day as a time to remember those who served, and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Time for Reflection
“It’s definitely a time for deep reflection,” he said. “You think of those you served with, who are serving now and the ones who will serve in the future. To serve your country is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Hernandez added he was proud of how Consumers Energy treats its veterans – giving all employees time off to celebrate and reflect. The company also has a Veterans Advisory Panel, of which Hernandez is proud to be a general member.
“It doesn’t matter what branch you are in. We all served under the same flag; having a military background with a positive outlook and a can-do attitude is what Consumers Energy is looking for,” Hernandez said. “It makes me want to work harder for a company when it opens doors for other veterans – giving them an opportunity to continue doing great things.”
A Different Path
Jeremy Holliman went down a different path, but it led him to the same result: being proud to be a military veteran.
Holliman attended college and decided it wasn’t for him. So, at the age of 22, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corp. It was one of the best decisions he ever made.
“I was a pretty shy kid,” said Holliman, who started out with the company in 2015 as a meter reader and is now a journey lineworker. “But meeting people in the Marines from many different makes and models helped me come out of my shell and be more confident in communicating with others. These are definitely skills that I use on the job now.”
Holliman said he would enjoy Veteran’s Day by spending some time with his family, calling his cousin who served in the Marines; his brother who served in the Air Force and other people he served with.
“Getting to know all these different people has really opened my eyes to the meaning of Veterans Day,” said Holliman. “I think a lot about those who have come before me and those who are serving right now. I am thankful for all the experiences I had in the Marines and now I am fortunate to have a great job at Consumers Energy. But being a Marine will always be part of who I am. I will never forget that. Never.”
New Lineworker Program
Consumers Energy is currently recruiting military veterans with documented electric experience to join its new Basic Electric Lineworker Apprentice program, earning $35 per hour following 10 days of free training and assessment.
Military veterans with documented electrical knowledge are encouraged to get more information and register for the Electric Lines Boot Camp at www.ElectricLinesBootCamp.com.
Consumers Energy ranks highly as a workplace for veterans. The energy provider is recognized as a Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Gold-Level Employer and ranked 3rd in Michigan in the Military Times Best for Vets Employers 2020 list.