Pat Gualtieri scoffed at the idea the first time he heard it. Shook his head. Probably rolled his eyes.
U-Haul was not only asking to be part of the New York City Veterans Day Parade – or America’s Parade, as it is called today – but it wanted to drive trucks down the streets of Manhattan.
“Yeah, but I don’t want trucks in the parade,” Gualtieri recalled telling U-Haul in 2004.
Ten years and 11 parades later, Gualtieri, executive director of the United War Veterans Council and America’s Parade, can’t imagine Nov. 11 without U-Haul, its enthusiastic Team Members and its glossy U.S. Armed Forces SuperGraphics trucks rolling through New York City.
“U-Haul was the first major corporate sponsor we had,” Gualtieri said recently after the biggest America’s Parade ever, which encompassed more than 270 participating groups, 25,000 participating individuals and 500,000 people in attendance. “Now look at what they’ve done all these years. My guys love U-Haul so much.”
As the relationship between U-Haul and the United War Veterans Council has grown, so has U-Haul’s status in the parade. This November, U-Haul received prime placement for its street banners that remained up for a month in the vicinity of 42nd and Fifth Avenues.
A condensed TV broadcast of America’s Parade was seen in nine major markets on Nov. 16.
Jeff Sonberg, Marketing President for U-Haul Company of Manhattan Bronx and a U.S. Navy veteran, said that New Yorkers have come to understand U-Haul’s mission in the parade over the last decade.
“Our name is out there,” Sonberg said. “I’d say maybe four years in there was still some confusion as to why we were there. They probably thought we were in there to advertise, but that’s not it at all when you get down to it. We support veterans and the military.
Six U-Haul trucks and 120 Team Members in matching patriotic attire participated in this year’s parade. Sonberg also was afforded the chance to speak during a 15-second TV spot dedicated to U-Haul in the “red carpet” area.
At one point, veterans presenting a World War II float spotted U-Haul Team Members and walked over with a 4×4 cardboard cutout featuring a picture of U-Haul founder L.S. “Sam” Shoen, a WWII U.S. Navy veteran.
As a perk to U-Haul’s solidified presence in the New York City and Phoenix Veterans Day Parades, Sonberg said more veterans have approached him and are considering U-Haul as a future place of employment. Almost 14 percent of U-Haul’s 20,000-plus Team Members across North America are veterans.
“Being a part of the New York City experience and in preparation for the parade, you start meeting with other organizations because at some point everybody comes together,” Sonberg said. “You get a better feel for what veterans are available to you. And you say, ‘We could find a place for those people.’”
Has U-Haul been involved in your community during your Veteran’s Day Parade? Share with us your story in the comments below!