Originally posted by our friends at Puryear at https://drivepuryear.com/
Honoring One Of Our Own
Whether serving our country by pulling freight or enlisting in the military, heroes walk amongst us every day. Truck drivers, especially, are our highway heroes.
They risk their lives every day to provide for their families and keep our country moving. Without them, our economy would come to a rolling stop, and society as we know it would be turned upside down. It’s not an easy lifestyle, and it’s a sacrifice that only a few understand.
Some drivers, like Jeremy F. Hardison, answer the call to serve – both as a truck driver and as a member of the U.S. military.
Growing up in Maysville, North Carolina, Jeremy was a go-getter. At 14 years old, he started mowing grass in the neighborhood to make money. “I had an old worn-out John Deere lawn mower, and I’d put it on a trailer and take him to places where there were a bunch of houses. He’d just mow grass all day long. The youngin’ was making more money than I was!” said Jerry Hardison, Jeremy’s father.
Jerry recalls how his son was also a quick learner. Jeremy played trombone in the school band and taught himself how to play the guitar.
“That’s the kind of person he was. When he tried to do something, he wanted to do it right.”
Jeremy also taught himself how to take apart trucks, cars, and machinery. He once welded two pickup trucks together and even installed clutches in his mother’s Harley-Davidson Sportster 1000.
“One day, when I walked into my buddy’s garage, I looked over at the corner, he had the motorcycle’s duct control in two pieces. He was putting clutches in it, and I said, ‘boy, you’re on your own!’ I said I ain’t getting involved. Sure enough, two hours later, it was back together and he was riding it again,” said Jerry.
The Call to Serve
Jeremy’s passion for engineering led him to enlist in the National Guard in May 2006 to fulfill his dreams of going to college and designing aircraft. He then deployed to Iraq from 2008 to 2009.
While in Iraq, Jeremy was awarded the Combat Action Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal with a campaign star, and the Army Commendation Medal.
“He was just as good as gold. He would do anything for anybody that he could…You couldn’t have asked for a better youngin’,” said Jerry.
In 2011, Jeremy decided to join Puryear Tank Lines after getting referred by his dad, who has been a Puryear driver for over 20 years. “The day he called me and told me that he was going to trucking school, I couldn’t believe it. I hung up the phone on him. I thought he was messing with me,” said Jerry.
“Jeremy exemplified everything that our company stands for. Patriotic, honest, hard-working, self-motivated, eager, and friendly. I think the best measure of a person is how his peers view him. Everyone here loved Jeremy. Puryear is a better company for having had Jeremy and others like him as a part of our team.”
- Donnie Puryear, Owner, Puryear Tank Lines
Jeremy quickly learned how to drive and haul hazmat, having watched his father drive trucks for most of his life.
“He already knew how to drive a truck from watching me. It blew my mind,” said Jerry. “At the time, he was one of the youngest drivers to pull hazmat. In fact, he got trained on LP and butane before I did and ended up training me!”
When asked if he remembered anything about Jeremy driving for Puryear, Jerry recalled a time when he and his son set out to North Dakota together.
“We ran mostly at night, and I loved it. It was like the song, ‘Giddy-Up, Go Daddy’ by Red Souvine,” said Jerry.
Like most truck drivers, Jeremy and Jerry tried to stay connected with their loved ones while on the road.
Jerry didn’t know at the time, but those would be some of the last fond memories he would have with his son.
Answering the Call
In 2012, Jeremy’s unit was called to active duty in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Over the years, we’ve had numerous people work for us who were also in active reserve units,” said Ron Patterson, Director of Safety & Risk Management at Puryear Tank Lines.
“Some of those employees were called up for active duty, deployed, completed their tours of duty, and safely returned.”
“We had hoped Jeremy would come back like the others did.”
Tragically, on October 1, 2012, Jeremy and two other soldiers were killed when an insurgent detonated a suicide vest while they were on foot patrol in Khost, Afghanistan.
Jeremy’s loss affected many people, including friends, family members, and all his co-workers at Puryear.
“He was loved by a lot of people,” said Jerry. “It brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. I think about him all the time.”
Present day, Jerry has Jeremy’s name along with a big flag on the back of his tractor-trailers to memorialize his son.
“Our country lost a smart kid who had a bright future ahead of him. Who knows what he could have accomplished,” said Ron.
Since its founding in 1959, Puryear has been committed to supporting the women and men of the U.S. military.
This May, they are partnering with The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, Project Healing Waters, and Nine Line Apparel to raise funds for military veterans. The fundraiser will culminate on Memorial Day weekend when the company sponsors Jeb Burton’s car at the Alsco Uniforms 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Names of fallen war heroes will be painted on Jeb’s car and the name of Sgt. Jeremy F. Hardison will be featured on the passenger door and driver door.
“I know Donnie thought the world of Jeremy. It brings tears to my eyes,” said Jerry about Puryear honoring Jeremy in this way.
Puryear Tank Lines has invited Jerry and Jeremy’s sister, Justina, to attend the Charlotte Motor Speedway race on Saturday, May 27, 2023. They will be treated to a pre-race tour of the pit and garage area. They along with other VIPs will have the opportunity to see the car up close and take photos with it as well as with Jeb Burton.
How You Can Support
In recent years, Puryear has partnered with Nine Line Apparel, a U.S. veteran-owned and operated business that sells apparel.
“When we told Nine Line how we’re honoring Jeremy, they stepped up and said, hey, this is a great opportunity. Let’s make a special t-shirt this year, sell it online, and donate the proceeds to a veteran’s group,” said Ron.
The chosen veteran’s group is Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing. Project Healing Waters depends on charitable donations and the help of volunteers to meet the needs of participants.
Veteran groups like Project Healing Waters are able to use property through the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation for various outings, including archery, hunting, skeet-shooting, fishing, and fly fishing. Donations to Project Healing Waters and the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation help make these outings possible.
“I want everyone to remember that when these guys and gals get ordered to battle, they’re going for our country. They’re not going for a political party. They’re going because that’s their job and just like our drivers, you go and do your job every day,” said Ron.
“These people deserve our respect, and we’ll do whatever we can to let them know how much we respect them for what they do and the sacrifices that they make for us and our country.”
Forever in Debt
The level of service and sacrifice that drivers and military personnel like Jeremy Hardison give to our country is unrivaled. It’s often taken for granted and misunderstood by those who haven’t put the welfare of others before their own. The fact is though, these unsung heroes – whether on the road or overseas – are giving their lives in service for you and for me.