Peter Dejana poses with Marines. Photo from Rich Idtensohn
May 01, 2014 | 10:12 AMU.S. Marine trucks bearing Dejana Truck & Utility Equipment mud flaps traveled to the Kings Park business last week to surprise the owner, a Korean War veteran, thanking him for hiring veterans coming home from active duty.
"I was shocked but honored," said Peter Dejana, owner and former Marine aircraft wing sergeant.
Members of the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines Regiment in Garden City presented Dejana with a certificate for hiring veterans and invited him to be the guest of honor at the annual U.S. Marine Corps Birthday Ball at the New York Athletic Club in November.
The 83-year-old said his veteran workers already know how to work hard and are easy to train because of the discipline they learn in the armed forces. Dejana said his veterans arrive at work on time every day and they see every task through to completion.
While his hiring staff understands that one does not need to be a veteran to possess these qualities, Dejana started the veteran-hiring program in his truck business, a way of thanking them for their patriotic actions. His company is part of the 100,000 Jobs Mission that hires veterans coming home from service, according to Dejana Marketing Director Rich Idtensohn.
"What I don't want to see is a veteran come home without a job," Dejana said.
Dejana's interest in trucks started when he was working in a Port Washington junkyard as a young boy. After coming home from active service in Korea in 1954, Dejana worked for what came to be known as Northrop Grumman in Bethpage for three years.
Then he bought a gas station where his workers serviced New York Telephone Company cars. Eventually, the gas station expanded to eight locations on the East Coast.
Peter Dejana poses with family and the Marines. Photo from Rich Idtensohn
That company later turned into Dejana Truck & Utility Equipment, with eight locations and about 400 employees, about 30 of whom are veterans.
"He dedicated his life to the corps and now we want to show our dedication to him," said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jesus Garcia, who helped arrange the surprise. He and eight other marines showed Dejana the trucks since the design has changed since the Korean War.
Garcia first heard about Dejana at a job fair about two months ago when he spoke to someone who worked for Grainger industrial supply in Bohemia. Upon hearing that the Marines were looking for someone to honor in November, the person told Garcia about Dejana.
"It was amazing to hear his stories," Garcia said of Dejana.
The owner hires veterans to be shop employees, do inventory or human resources, among other things.
Fred Perrin started working for Dejana in August. He was in the Marines for 20 years, having served in Hawaii, Japan and other places in the Pacific. Now, he is in charge of recruiting veterans who have just gotten out of the service.
"They've served their country," Perrin said. "The community needs to give back to them now."
And thanks to the efforts of Perrin and Dejana CFO Jerry Dresel, Dejana's wife Francis, four daughters, son and three of his six grandchildren arrived with the Marines to help surprise him.
The surprise was a welcome interruption for Dejana.
"I was proud of it," he said.