Anytime Judy Ferraro travels through an airport, her eyes scan for men and women in military uniform. Then she does something unexpected. She pays for their food.
“They say, ‘Ma'am, you don’t have to do that,’ and I say, ‘Yes. I do,’” says Ferraro, the vice president of sales at Shapiro Metals based in St. Louis, Missouri.
Her admiration goes back to when she was a young girl. Her father and three uncles served in all branches of the military--U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines.
“I grew up just loving the military,” Ferraro says.
She can pinpoint the first time it happened in an airport. An Army soldier was behind her in line. As she handed money over the counter, she said, ‘Pay for his, too.” It happened again while Ferraro and her husband were dining in a restaurant in Ohio.
“I can remember a guy was in his fatigues. It was clear he was leaving," she says. "They were all having dinner, and I paid for the entire family’s meal.
"I told the server, 'Don’t tell them where this is coming from. Just say, ‘Thank you for your service.' You could see them surveying the room trying to figure out who it was.”
Last November, Ferraro interviewed veterans who work at Shapiro Metals. She shared their stories and photos on Shapiro's Facebook and the veterans received Shapiro's Heroes jackets.
“I’ve been in the industry a long time. This is one of the most gratifying things I’ve done,” Ferraro says. “They were saying ‘God bless you’ or ‘I haven’t thought about this in many years and it was really emotional.’”
To top last year, plant managers and teams at various facilities created unique videos to honor the veterans. The videos will be shared on Facebook throughout the month.
The first Shapiro Hero was Louis Williams, known as “Uncle Lou” by his colleagues. Williams, a U.S. Army veteran, works at Shapiro’s plant based in Denton, Texas.
In the video, plant manager Christian Dyer says, “In our conversations about your time in the Army, you’ve mentioned your battle buddies. Just like them, every single day I walk in this plant you’ve had my back. The team and I have much respect and appreciation for everything you’ve done.”
The team played the video on Monday morning. Everyone applauded Williams, Ferraro says.
Another Shapiro Hero is Jim Funkhouser, who started at the company as a truck driver and is now a customer service representative.
Funkhouser served in the U.S. Navy from 1981 to 1985, where he navigated the USS Kitty Hawk abroad and received the Humanitarian Service Medal. He recalls a time when the carrier collided with a Russian submarine off the coast of Korea in 1984.
While interviewing Andrew Micklus, a workhand who served in the U.S. Marines from 2007 to 2012, Ferraro learned he is a Purple Heart recipient for serving in Iraq.
“It creates this atmosphere where people know who they’re working next to,” she says. “We found out so many things we didn't know."
Ferraro’s vision is for the industry to adopt the Heroes program.
“They just don’t get the credit or admiration they deserve,” Ferraro says. “I think it would help us as an industry and certainly would help every single company.”
This year, the veteran with the most "likes" on Facebook will get to treat their facility to lunch on the company.
Shapiro Metals is also sponsoring a trip for two to Washington, which includes flight, hotel, Arlington Cemetery admission and a tour of the monuments. A drawing with all the veteran’s names will take place at the end of the month.
Watch the tributes at Shapiro Metals on Facebook.