CT beekeeper Progressive gets a free car as part of its Keys to Progress giveaway on Veterans Day. – Hartford Courant

Union of Thomas Bacon is an avid beekeeper who knows everything there is to know buzzing and busy insects.

A self-proclaimed “bee lover,” Bacon owns and operates Union Bee Co., a family-run apiary in Union Township that operates more than 50 hives and sells local honey, produce and goods.

“My uncle gave me my first beehive and I was hooked,” Bacon said. “When I approach my clients, I tell them I’ll talk to them about bees if they let me.”

But what makes Bacon stand out? not just what he did as a beekeeper, but what he did before that. It wasn’t long before Bacon changed his bee suit to a military uniform.

Bacon, a former US Army Ranger, was stationed at Hunter Army Field in Savannah, Georgia from 2006 to 2010.

“I was doing construction work and building houses and I just felt bored,” Bacon said. “When I was a kid, I was a thrill seeker. I often did things like climbing after work. At that time, one of my colleagues told me that I should join the military service.

Bacon, who also helps build wooden beehives in his garage, travels across the state to promote his business. However, with the increase in the price of fuel, it becomes difficult to make a profit.

“I had a diesel truck,” Bacon said. “It will cost me $50 to do my job for the day. It also had a lot of miles. My wife has a car, but it does not work to transport beekeeping materials. I really need to improve.”

That’s when Bacon applied for Progressive Insurance’s Keys to Progress grant, which will give more than 100 veterans and military-related organizations across the country the keys to a new car.

According to Progressive, this Veterans Day gift provides veterans with reliable transportation, helping them get back on the road and moving forward in life.

“We’ve had 10 requests in Connecticut this year,” said Chris Murtaugh, a managed care representative with Progressive. “Thomas really stood out to us because his application was well written and we really felt that a new car would help his business grow.”

Bacon, who bought a Dodge Grand Caravan, said it’s the perfect vehicle not only for hauling beehives, but also for taking his family on the road.

“It’s a really big help for us,” Bacon said. “It can fit all my beekeeping supplies, even my kids and wife. It’s perfect for us.”

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Murtaugh said Progressive recognizes the great sacrifices veterans make on behalf of the country, and the program is just one way the company can give back to those who have given so much.

“Veterans Day is about honoring our veterans,” Murtaugh said. “This is part of Progressive’s commitment to society. We are happy to be able to do this for someone so deserving.”

But while Bacon says he appreciates the car, he doesn’t believe he’s doing anything anyone else wouldn’t.

“A lot of times people will thank me for my service, but I don’t think I’m really serving,” Bacon said. “Children who were sent to Afghanistan with their small children served in the house. Being in 18-month positions with a 2-year-old at home serves. I’m lucky to see my children grow up and not have to worry about being sent away.”

Bacon, who served three deployments in Afghanistan, was stationed in various locations from Kandahar to Jalalabad. It was during his last assignment that he began wanting to start a family with his current wife, Gail. Today, Bacon has two children, Elizabeth and Taylor.

“I chose not to re-enlist because I wanted to have a family and didn’t want to spend time away from my children,” Bacon said. “Now I have two small children and I can spend every day with them. This is the best gift.”

Stephen Underwood can be contacted sunderwood@courant.com

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