Richard Mark spends about half of each month on the road as a Union Pacific technical trainer, showing new hires the ins and outs of railroading. That commitment doesn’t stop him from making time for others – he recently built a woodworking bench for a veteran in his community, spending more than 40 hours of his personal time over six weeks.
Mark, who enjoys woodworking and metalworking, became involved with the Purple Heart Project, a nonprofit helping combat-wounded veterans learn the art of woodworking by providing free training and tools. As part of the group’s ‘Bench Brigade,’ he volunteered to build and deliver a custom workbench for local U.S. Army veteran Fred Simpson.
“After constructing all the components, I met Fred on a Saturday – we assembled it together in his garage and just had fun,” said Mark, senior instructor-Transportation, based in Defiance, Missouri.
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An 18-year Union Pacific employee, he joined the railroad as a conductor and became a locomotive engineer before putting on his training hat 12 years ago. He previously served three years in the U.S. Army.
UPVETS, one of Union Pacific’s Employee Resource Groups, donated to the cause after learning about Mark’s project. In 2022, 6,073 veterans – 18% of the workforce – were members of Team UP.
“We go out of our way as a company to support veterans – I see it firsthand,” Mark said. “I try to help local vets when I have time. As a veteran myself and also seeing veterans in my training classes, I know we sometimes need extra help re-orientating into civilian life.”
Simpson described it as an “awesome experience.”
“Rich was very communicative with me throughout the whole process, and it was an absolute pleasure meeting him when he personally delivered the bench,” he said. “While my disabilities prevent me from doing most of my home renovations by myself, I’ve been able to use the bench to create several custom trim pieces to place throughout my home. The bench has been a huge asset to me being able to get back to being productive despite my injuries from being in the service, as well as providing a peaceful and creative recreational outlet when I need it.”