"I finally had someone on my side." Vietnam vet gets furnace repair, new well through MVTF
February 07, 2022
When 73-year-old Bob Walker got out of the Army in 1969, he wanted nothing to do with the military. The Vietnam veteran who served his country as a heavy truck operator came home to Michigan to a less-than-welcoming crowd. He wanted to hang up his uniform and never look back.
"I didn't want anything to do with it, period," said Walker. "I didn't want anything to do with the VA. I didn't want anything to do with the government."
More than 50 years later, when Walker was having trouble with his furnace and well at his home in Beaverton, Michigan, he still didn't think there was any help for him. He didn't have running water and was trying to heat his entire home with a small wood stove.
In December, his son-in-law decided to contact the Gladwin County Office of Veterans Affairs. He spoke with Ken Roberts, a county Veteran Service Officer and Michigan Veterans Trust Fund (MVTF) agent, who took it from there.
"Ken didn't call me on the phone; he came out to the house and introduced himself," Walker said. "The more we talked the more I liked him. He said 'We're going to help you. What you did for your country, you deserve this. You got a raw deal when you came home, but we're going to try and set that right.'"
Roberts worked with Dawn Shinaver, who handles the more costly home repair requests at the MVTF to find help for Walker. But when a furnace repair company said they couldn't do the job until the end of February, that wasn't good enough for Trust Fund technician Lonnie Riley.
"This job couldn't wait until then," said Riley. "This veteran needed assistance now, so another company had to be found."
Riley set out to locate other local companies that could do the job sooner and found one immediately. Two days later, a crew was at Walker's home to look at his furnace. That same day, another crew showed up to start installing a well.
"It made me feel awesome," said Walker. "It was just a great feeling of relief knowing that finally I had somebody on my side who was going to fight for me."
Today, Walker has running water and a working furnace at no cost to him. He's thankful for the Trust Fund and his county VSO Ken Roberts for their quick action and compassion.
MVTF Director Lindell Holm noted that the Trust Fund, an arm of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, has been helping veterans facing financial hardships for more than 75 years. "I'm fortunate to see the county agents and MVTF staff do this kind of work every day for veterans," Holm said. "I'm very proud of their dedication and professionalism they consistently display."
"There are too many veterans who, like Mr. Walker, felt they had nothing coming to them and never reach out," Roberts said. "I hope that other veterans will hear this story and realize there are people out there who care and want to help them."
Not only does Walker have running water and a working furnace, but he's found a new friend.
"Ken made me feel right at home," Walker said. "The way he treated me as a veteran was just unbelievable. We still talk on the phone once a week. He was a godsend. I'm sure there's other veterans out there like me and I hope they take the chance to listen because they can turn your life around."
If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of financial assistance, the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund may be able to help. Visit Michigan.gov/mvaa or call 1-800-MICH-VET to learn more. To apply for emergency funds from the MVTF, fill out and submit an Emergency Assistance Form.