Monday’s weather was nearly perfect for Gregory Schneider, president of Operation: Ramp It Up for Veterans, and his crew to build a ramp to assist a local Vietnam veteran dealing with Parkinson’s Disease who just returned home following open heart surgery.
Parades, commendations and medals are more than appropriate to honor veterans, he said, but mean little when age and health issues keep a person homebound, and that’s where his veterans service organization came in.
According to the Operation: Ramp It Up for Veterans website, Schneider, a driver for the United Parcel Service, had a vision to help veterans with their mobility issues by installing ramps at their homes.
“We give back to veterans who have mobility issues,” he said. “We initially began about seven years ago with our local non-profit in Cincinnati, built a couple of ramps with UPS, and I enjoyed it so much I decided to make it my own project.”
He especially wanted to thank Arlington Memorial Gardens in Cincinnati and Charter Communications/Spectrum for being the sponsors of Monday’s event at the home of Jack and Carole Wilson at Woodland Lake Senior Adult Mobile Home Community on West Deadfall Road.
“Jack told me over the phone that he used to build bridges in Vietnam,” Schneider said. “And as quick as he was building them, the enemy was blowing them up.”
The ramp for the Wilson’s was the 74th, Schneider said, and upon completion he and his crew were leaving for the Bethel area to build the 75th, adding that in seven years his organization has been able to help 75 veterans in 15 states with mobility problems.
“Mr. Wilson’s ramp came from Rhode Island since we picked it up from a deceased veteran,” Schneider said. “So what we’re doing today is one veteran helping another veteran.”
Jeanette Richardson, director of human resources for Charter/Spectrum, said that one of their employees brought it up to the company that the Wilson’s could use some help.
“We worked with the corporate office to get this set up, and partnered with the VFW and the Ramp It Up program,” she said.
Mike Pedelty of Charter/Spectrum added that while helping to alleviate the mobility issue is the primary objective, it also gives back to a disabled veteran a sense of pride and independence, both of which are necessary to allow a former service member to remain in their own home.
“Charter is our parent company and our brand name is Spectrum,” he said. “One of our big initiatives is helping people have safe and healthy homes through our philanthropic arm, Spectrum Housing Assist, and this fits perfectly with our mission to make this gentleman’s house safer, and easier to come and go for both him and his wife.”
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup; state Rep. Shane Wilkin; Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings; Highland County commissioners Gary Abernathy, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton; Steph Rowland of the Highland County Veterans Service Office; and many others joined volunteers and Ramp It Up personnel to assemble Wilson’s aluminum access ramp.
“One of the great things about this is it helps veterans stay in their homes and not have to move somewhere else, or get some type of extended care,” said Wenstrup, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. “It’s a nice payback for all that they have done, and here’s Mr. Wilson with a really nice little place out here on the lake, and this will make it easier to get in and out.”
Wilkin, who before suffering a neck injury in high school was planning a career in the Marine Corps, felt Veterans Day was a day to give honor to men and women who sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom worldwide.
“One of the things I like to point out is they gave us the opportunity to disagree with each other, and hopefully we can start doing that more respectfully,” he said. “They’ve made this country what it is and insured the freedoms we enjoy, and in a speech I’ll be giving later, one of the remarks in it is no one told me what I could and couldn’t say, and it’s all because of people like Mr. Wilson who stepped up and served their country.”
Hastings issued a proclamation calling on all of the city’s residents to take to heart the meaning of Veteran’s Day, and also proclaimed the entire month of November as Veteran’s Month in Hillsboro. He pointed out the challenges for veterans extended well beyond the battlefield or duty station.
“The reality is a lot of the battles that veterans face are those of disability and oncoming old age,” he said. “What we’re witnessing today makes a huge difference in a life, and one thing I’ve noticed in my time in office and being involved in veterans events is that veterans tend to watch out for one another.”
For more information about Operation: Ramp It Up For Veterans or to donate, visit its website at www.rampitup4veterans.com.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.