Hardin County Veterans Now Have a Ride Thanks To Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation's Project: Food and Fellowship
“This van is truly a dream come true for us,” said Bernal (Bernie) F. Koehrsen Jr., Hardin County IA Veterans Affairs Director. “I’ve had to decline veterans’ requests for transportation several times recently, and now we can better support those who sacrificed everything to serve our country."
Earlier this morning, the van Bernie is referencing was donated to Hardin County Veterans Affairs through the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation’s Project: Food and Fellowship. The Program provides resources to help bring together military families and show gratitude to those who served.
County Veterans Affairs (VA) offices across the state help connect veterans and their families with government support programs and benefits.
Bernie and the three Hardin County VA Commissioners—Bonnie Wiederkehr, Don Orgel and Dave Mitchell and most recently, Merle “Chappie” Chaplin oversee this care and service.
A big part of that support is health care—helping those veterans complete their health care applications, and more importantly, getting them back and forth to the care and treatment they need.
“This critical need was not being met,” said Bernie. “Now we have the means to help transport our veterans to the Hansen Family Hospital, VA hospitals or the VA Community Based Operating Centers (CBOC’s) in Marshalltown, Mason City and Fort Dodge and other facilities that offer vision, dental or specialized services.”
All four of them are veterans themselves. Bernie served in the US Air Force for 22 years, retiring as a Lt Colonel. During his four duty assignments as a unit commander, Bernie garnered a reputation as a commander who took care of his troops.
Now Bernie’s troops are the 1,270 veterans who live in Hardin County. He said “I feel like a round peg in a round hole. I just love being able to provide services to our veterans and to help them with applications to the federal VA and to the Iowa Trust Fund at Camp Dodge.”
Bernie takes calls from veterans seven days a week, most hours of the day. He is also able to support them financially with vouchers for food, gasoline, rent and utilities for those who met the income guidelines.
According to the most recent US Census, Hardin County is home to 108 World War II veterans, 201 Korean War Veterans, 400 Vietnam veterans, 154 First Gulf War Veterans and 108 Second Gulf War Veterans. And 451 of them are over the age of 75.
Bernie splits his time between two offices—the county office building in Eldora, Iowa and the American Legion in Iowa Falls, Iowa. He has a pool of drivers lined up to help with transportation requests and his team of drivers will be on-call to respond to transportation requests.
Hardin County Veterans who need a ride or assistance can call Veterans Affairs at 641-373-0349.