3PL and Fulfillment Services forklift operator Dale Hatfield’s childhood prepared him for a military career. Not because his father was in the armed services, but because by the time Dale was nine years old, he, one of his brothers, and father had moved many times. During his teens, Dale explained that “I was constantly in trouble with the law,” a period which culminated in authorities telling him that if he got in trouble one more time, he’d be locked up for good.
By the tender age of 15, Dale had the maturity to understand that he needed discipline and guidance. This led to his decision to follow in his two oldest brothers’ footsteps by joining the Marines. Four years later, Dale reported to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he was based for much of his 12 years in the Marines. His first close combat he almost became involved in was Lebanon. Shortly after completing basic training, “We are actually en route from Camp Pendleton to Okinawa, Japan,” he said. After getting as far as Alaska, “they pulled us away from all the civilians and issued us our rifles and live ammo, and load us back on a plane,” bound for Lebanon. However, just as they reached cruising altitude, “they had to turn around and go back because they had rescinded the orders.”
Dale served in the 1990-91 Gulf War, and then joined the Army National Guard after getting out of the Marines in 1994. Along the way, repelling out of helicopters and down mountains, together with carrying with a pack “that weighed almost as much as I did” took its toll on his back. To top things off, just prior to leaving the Marines, while in an automobile, “I got hit from behind at 60 mph,” he said. “It literally twisted my spine in two different directions… and ended my Marine Corps’ career.”
Now in the civilian world, Dale’s first inclination was to find a job as a mechanic, work he had performed in the service. He had the desire, but not the several thousand dollars he needed to buy his own set of tools, a requirement at the time. Other experience he’d gained in the service included working in a warehouse, and he was able to secure employment at Meijer and then Wal-Mart warehousing operations. In 2011, he began having heart issues, landing in the hospital on several occasions.
“It got to the point where Wal-Mart had to let me go,” Dale said. This was followed by 26 weeks of unemployment. It was during this time that Dale came across an ad for Peckham. Not for warehouse work, but as a customer service rep in the federal center in Battle Creek. After applying, going through the interview process, and getting hired, he spent four years on the phone, working his way up to supervisor. However, when the stress became too much for Dale’s liking, “I called the V.A. rep, and asked him if he knew about (the Peckham) Supply Chain.” Within three days, Dale had been interviewed and hired on to work at the Peckham’s Watertown B facility.
Dale said loves he’s working on the warehouse. “The people are great. Everybody works together as a team. If somebody needs help, all you gotta do is ask and they’re right there.” He explained that whereas Meijer and Wal-Mart received 700+ orders per day with the insistence that they all need to ship out that day, “here, we might get 250 orders in a day. It’s a little more relaxed and geared toward accuracy (over) speed.”
Growing up with a brother who had epilepsy helped put Dale in the correct mindset of what it’s like to work with others with various disabilities. He said he takes everyone’s disability “with a grain of salt” in terms of how it may affect their work. “I observe and try to figure out exactly what their limitations are, and work with them to help them get to where they need to be.”
Dale has talked with Peckham’s V.A. rep Matthew Urhammer about getting not only the Veterans who work at Peckham, but other team members, more involved with Veteran-related activities. His work paid off: Dale and dozens of co-workers will be placing flags at the Mount Hope cemetery leading up to Memorial Day.
Dale enjoys the independence that comes with working in the supply chain. He gets his assignment, and then it’s up to him to get the job done. “As far as my disability goes,” he explained, “my independence is all I have left to show that I can still do the job.” And over the past 30 years, he’s been able to prove to various employers that he can.
Working for Peckham has given Dale the opportunity to live his life the way he wants to live it, which includes spending 3-4 nights a week honing his pool skills. And his practice has paid off: he’s been to one tournament in Las Vegas and is heading west again in the coming months.
“If it hadn’t been for Peckham,” Dale concluded, “I can’t say where I would be, other than probably homeless just like a lot of other Veterans. Homeless and living on the street, begging for food. I’m grateful that Peckham was there, and I try to give back as much as I get.”