Valvoline American Heroes: Q&A with Air Force Veteran Tony Horvath

Jul 23, 2019

At Valvoline, we honor those who have served our country and we’re grateful to have some of these American heroes right here under our roof. Tony Horvath served in the Air Force before joining our team as Regional Environmental Health and Safety Manager. Learn more about Tony’s service and how he overcame used his mental toughness to overcome obstacles along the way.

Photo Credit: Tony Horvath

What made you want to join the Air Force Delayed Entry Program at 16 years old?

As a kid, I was always out in my sandbox playing with my “Army Men.” Moreover, I was always struck by the commercial of the Marine in his perfect uniform. It spoke to something deeper inside me that I couldn’t put into words as a child. As I got older, I loved watching war movies and began to immerse myself in reading about WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I was at best an average student in high school just trying to stay eligible to play football. For me, college wasn’t going to be my scene. One day, my best friend and I talked with a Marine recruiter about enlisting in the “buddy program.” When he chose another path, I began talking with the Air Force recruiter. Shortly after talking with the Air Force recruiter, 9/11 happened. After watching our country be attacked, I became completely committed to serving our country. The only catch was I was 16 and couldn’t leave for basic training until I graduated high school. So, I left for basic training 20 days after graduation.

What was the most challenging part of basic training?

For anyone as young as I was, being away from home like that for the first time is hard. I left for basic training on June 29th and my 19th birthday was July 1st. Between being there on my birthday and lying in bed on the 4th of July at 8 PM hearing the fireworks, there was a fair amount of home sickness. Basic training is really a mind game and you can’t let it get away from you. It’s being physically and mentally exhausted with the standard of perfection never wavering. The craziest thing to look back on is how our shirts had to be in perfect 6-inch squares. I remember sitting there for hours with a ruler and tweezers trying to get them just right. Then, the drill sergeants would come in and throw it all on the floor. That’s the type of stuff that was the most challenging for me—the mental side.

Photo Credit: Tony Horvath

How did you earn your ranking as Staff Sergeant?

In the Air Force, they used a points system to determine if you make the next rank. Based on the current needs, they set a cutoff score and you have to score above that to make rank. The scoring system was made up of three aspects: Enlisted Performance Reports (EPRs), Technical Test for your Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) (which is military for “job”), and a test on Air Force Regulations. The combined score from those elements makes your total score, and if it’s high enough, you make rank. I studied A LOT.

Who are your American heroes?

My American hero is also my best friend. The same friend who was going to enlist in the Marines with me ended up doing so a year after I joined the Air Force. He was an infantryman and was wounded during his first tour in Iraq. Despite having been injured and having a family, he volunteered to go on a second tour. When I asked him why he would go back with so much to lose he told me, “I’m a squad leader and I need to be there to lead my young Marines.” He was wounded in his second tour, lost a very close friend, and was medically retired at 24. Jeremiah Hill is my real-life American hero.

Photo Credit: Tony Horvath

Did you have any first responders or military in your family growing up? And did they inspire you to serve?

Both my grandfathers served in the Army. My paternal grandfather served in Germany near the end of the Korean War and my maternal grandfather served in WWII. In WWII, my grandfather parachuted into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne and was wounded. Unfortunately, he passed before I could really learn much more. However, even if I was older, I don’t think he would have talked about it anyway. I remember his funeral when I was about 9. The 21-gun salute, the American flag on his coffin, the playing of TAPS, and the professionalism from the military detail was awe-inspiring.

How does your role at Valvoline help you fulfill your life purpose of serving others?

Valvoline allows me to continue to serve others by ensuring the health and safety of our workforce. It’s a task I take just as seriously as I did my military service and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Photo Credit: Tony Horvath

Looking back at your life, what is the most rewarding thing you have done?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with my family—they are my foundation. I have had several great accomplishments. I was the 7th Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer of the year in 2009, completed my master’s degree, and found a career I am passionate about. However, the most rewarding thing I have done is make workplaces safer. My dad is a blue-collar worker and I couldn’t imagine if something were to happen to him while at work. I just think back to when I was a child and couldn’t imagine the terror a child would feel if their parent were seriously injured at work. It is rewarding for me to ensure safe working conditions for our employees and that every spouse and child waiting for their loved ones to arrive home from work will continue to do so- safely. Ensuring that peace-of-mind for those families is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

When you’re not working at Valvoline, what do you do in your free time?

I spend time with my wife and kids. The kids are really active in gymnastics and volleyball, so they keep us busy. I work out 4-5 days a week and the gym is my sanctuary. I also love to get out on a lake in my kayak to just row and enjoy nature. I’m a college football junkie and I watch as many games as I can no matter who is playing. However, my fandom lies with Ohio State University. Also, I enjoy watching the Cleveland Indians as much as I can.

Since you work for Valvoline, we have to ask, what's your dream car?

I’ve always loved Corvettes. They’re such beautiful cars.

Join us in giving back to our American Heroes this summer. Purchase 5 quarts of any Valvoline motor oil now through July 31st at participating retailers and you can choose to donate a $5 rebate to select charitable organizations. Visit for more information.

Don't miss out on new content

An error occurred while submitting your email address to the mailing list. Please try again or contact us for assistance.

By submitting your email address you agree to receive email information, great offers, and more from Team Valvoline.

Thanks for signing up. Set your password and start earning reward points for everything you do on the site.

You already have a Team Valvoline account. Sign in here.

Did you forget your password?

Tags: Culture