From Military Heroes to Zero Waste Heroes

Veterans Day is a time to recognize and thank U.S. veterans who answered the call to defend our country and democracy. At Athens Services, we are proud to count as part of the Athens family more than two dozen distinguished, dedicated individuals who have served in the military. These veterans bring a unique perspective and strength of character to our workforce.

From Military Heroes to Zero Waste Heroes

Veterans Day is a time to recognize and thank U.S. veterans who answered the call to defend our country and democracy. 

At Athens Services, we are proud to count as part of the Athens family more than two dozen distinguished, dedicated individuals who have served in the military. These veterans bring a unique perspective and strength of character to our workforce. 

We wanted to take this opportunity to thank and appreciate these team members who have made such monumental contributions to our country and our organization. We would like you to meet some of our heroes.

Grace Diaz, Accounts Payable Clerk

City of Industry 

Grace Diaz was a veterinary specialist in the Army.  She served for three years. 

It is said that an army travels on its stomach. Grace provided vital support to Army personnel by inspecting food shipments for troops and commissaries overseas.  She also participated in site inspections to ensure that vendors adhered to strict cleanliness guidelines. 

“It was not very exciting,” she recalled. “But I found my time in the military to be a very good experience.”

“I enjoyed the esprit de corps, moving to a new duty station or gaining advanced training, and the opportunities to learn and grow as a person,” she said.  

Military service came naturally for Grace; several members of her family have served or are serving in the military. Two brothers, two cousins, and her two oldest children have served; her daughter is in the Navy.

“We covered four of the five branches of the military.”

Grace’s military experience has a big influence on her work today at Athens Services.

“My time in the Army reinforced my desire to work with others to get the job done,” she said. “Each member’s contribution and cooperation, their willingness to learn and share that knowledge, and helping each other reach their goals gets us the best end result.”  

Grace has five children, including twins. She enjoys spending time with her family, decorating,  gardening, and hiking.

 

Robert Serene, Load Checker

Camp Rock Transfer Station, Lucerne Valley

Robert Serene served in the Air Force for six years and was based at George AFB in Victorville. His most memorable experience was a short-term assignment in Saudi Arabia.

Robert comes from a military family: his grandfather served in the Army, his father served in the Korean War, and a brother served in the Army.

“I wanted to serve my country,” Robert said. “The military molded me. They taught me to take the responsibility to give my best no matter what I was doing.”

Robert has been with Athens for four years. He appreciates the opportunity to serve the community. He finds that the training he received in the military benefits him at Athens.

“They taught me to respect my supervisors and to always keep committed to my work,” he said. “And to give 100 percent all the time.”

 

Areli Ruvalcaba, Maintenance Supervisor

Materials Recovery Facility, Sun Valley

Areli Ruvalcaba served active duty as an infantryman in the Marine Corps from 1998 to 2002, then as a reservist on inactive service from 2002 to 2006. He served in several overseas deployments and received more than a dozen medals for his service, including three Purple Hearts. 

Military service runs in Areli’s family: his older brother served in the Air Force, his nephew is currently in the Air Force, and his uncles and several cousins served in the Army and the Navy.

“I wanted to serve my country in a way that I knew I would make a difference,” Areli said. “I chose the Marine Corps because it was the most difficult of the services.” 

Like many in the military, Areli relished the chance to see the world. 

“My favorite moments were when we had downtime in other countries and had the chance to experience other cultures,” he said.

He has found that the knowledge he gained in the Marines has been a valuable asset at Athens.

“My military experience has given me a work ethic that is unsurpassed,” he said.  

He is married, has five children, and enjoys golfing. 

 

John Casas, Fleet Maintenance Manager

Torrance

John Casas served 11 years in the Army as a vehicle mechanic and a platoon sergeant. His tenure included two overseas assignments, including Afghanistan. 

John is a third-generation Army veteran. His grandfather served during WWII and the Korean War, and his father served during the Vietnam War. And a relative of his just became a fourth-generation soldier.

“As an American, I feel this is the greatest way to pay honor to our country, just as my family members did before me and those coming after me,” John said.

“There were so many great things about serving this great county,” he said. “The most important to me was the brotherhood and sisterhood we had with individuals, regardless of their race, religion, or culture. We understood that, regardless of where you came from or what political agenda you had, we were there for each other to lean on.”

John has been with Athens for five years, and he sees similarities with the military.

“My jobs in the Army prepared me with the knowledge and skills needed for fleet maintenance and procurement. But the military also teaches you how to become a mentor, both at work and in your personal life,” he said. 

“I have been able to transfer those traits and skills over from one great organization – the U.S. Army – to another great organization – Athens Services,” John said. “We take the time to train and mentor every team member, and we have great camaraderie among the team here at LA South.”

John is married and has four children he dotes on when he’s not working.

 

Jorge Mendoza, Transfer Stations Operations Manager

Rialto

Jorge Mendoza is a new addition to Athens, coming on board in October. He served more than 11 years in the Army, working in logistics, combat engineering, transportation, and personal security detachment for VIPs. He was deployed to combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and received the Purple Heart.

He decided at the age of 10 that he was going to join the Army. 

“I saw footage of Desert Storm and Desert Shield, and I wanted to be there,” he recalled. “I made every effort to accomplish my dream.”

Besides the action and the chance to see the world, Jorge remembers most strongly the friendships he made.

“I met the finest Americans from diverse backgrounds,” he said. “We shared moments together that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. I consider them to be family.” 

His experience in the military helps in his role at Athens.

“The military prepares leaders if a person chooses to become a leader,” Jorge said. “They place you in different jobs to make things happen, and you gain valuable experience.”

And he sees similarities between Athens and the military.

“My mission never stopped once I retired from the military, and that is to train, lead, and mentor people,” he said. “The Army taught me that lesson that will forever be alive and instilled in me.” 

“Athens has a mission – to take care of their employees and their customers. My employees deserve the best so they can give their best to the customer.” 

Jorge is married and has three children, plus two nephews he adopted. He enjoys traveling, exercise, and the outdoors.

 

Thomas Wedding, Operations Supervisor

Vincent Hauling/Maintenance Yard, Irwindale

Thomas Wedding joined the Army as an Air Defense Artillery crewmember. He served in the Army for eight years, including deployments in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division and 25th Infantry Division.

Thomas was the first member of his family to join the military. 

“After the twin towers of the World Trade Center were attacked, I knew that I wanted to serve my country,” he said.

“I liked the camaraderie of the military,” he said. “I will never forget my first airborne operation, jumping out of an airplane for the first time.” 

Thomas is proud of his military career and believes that it prepared him well for life and work as a civilian.

“My military experience taught me loyalty, duty, and selfless service,” Thomas said. “I bring these qualities to work every day and stay committed to them.”

He has been with Athens Services for nine years as an operations supervisor for the street-sweeping department.

“I love to work with our sweeper and hauling teams,” he said. “I enjoy serving the community and working closely with the various public works departments.” 

Thomas is married and has two sons. They enjoy camping and baseball.

These are just a few of the many veterans we are proud to call colleagues. They are among the best our country has to offer. We thank all of them for their continued dedication and commitment to service. 

We wish a most sincere Happy Veterans Day from Athens Services to all veterans everywhere.

Athens Services Veterans Honor Roll 2020

Air Force

Terri Hamilton

Robert Serene

 

Army

Daniel Buckner

John Casas

Louis Degidio

Graciela Diaz

Patrick Domingue

Bernardo Estrada

Richard Gonzales

Eli Goyco Jr.

Stephen Gray

Brett Hershman

Eric Hollman

Jorge Mendoza

Jose Moreno

Jesus Sanchez

Thomas Wedding

Gerardo Zamora

 

Coast Guard

Carlos Garcia

 

Marine Corps

Jacob Cadena

Shane Caswell

Ernesto Gallardo

Matthew Niklas

Juan Ornelas

Jacob Rider

Julian Rosales

Areli Ruvalcaba

Gabriel Yllescas

Valentin Zuniga

 

Navy

Ricardo Diaz

Gregory Eklund

Paul Lakin