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Veteran Receives Van from Local Businesses
Doug Winterhalter, a 34 year-old veteran who served ten tours in Iraq and Afghanistan received a Ford Windstar minivan at the Stuart Air Show on November 10. The Martin County resident was unaware of the award until that day.
Todd Harris and Mark Smith of Crown Car Care and Crown Collision donated a 2004 Ford Windstar minivan outfitted with new tires, an exterior paint job with special artwork on the hood and a complete mechanical checkup and repair. Other businesses that helped support the project are: NAPA-Salerno Auto Parts, Ceramlock Coatings, Inc.
St. Lucie Battery & Tire, Keystone Automotive, Albert Kemperle of FL, Dangerous Curves, The Business Connectors, Tami Karol Insurance and Robert & Connie Harris, Sign-a-Rama of Stuart, Car Pro, Cold Air Distributors
Todd is a supporter of Honor Flight and has been a sponsor of the Stuart Air Show the past two years. “This year, I wanted to do something that could really make a difference in the life of a veteran. Our returning veterans are having a difficult time finding jobs and if they do, transportation can often be an obstacle,” stated Todd.
The van was a first for the “Wheels to Warrior” program of the Road to Victory Military Museum. During October, veterans were asked to write a letter explaining what the van would mean to them and how it would help get them back on their feet.
Since his discharge from the military about two years ago, Doug has tried to get work without success. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Doug was allowed to have the military move his family once and so he chose Florida, where his wife has family.
Doug is a big guy, 5’11” and weighs 300 lbs. While he was in the service he was a jet fighter heavy engine mechanic. The job was very physical and put a lot of strain on his body. As a result, his knees are in extremely poor condition. Doug has yet to receive any disability benefits despite the fact that he has applied and been on a waiting list for about two years.
Doug is attending IRSC to pursue an AA degree in Criminal Justice, with support from the GI bill. He also receives a stipend, which pays the rent in the government-subsidized housing in Jensen Beach. Doug will get his degree this summer and then work towards his Bachelors degree. He would like to get a job working with juveniles, probation or parole work. His wife is studying to be a nurse, also at IRSC.
He has received some assistance through a private fund, the Major Goldsmith Fund, administered by Martin County resident Jim Goldsmith. “I have gotten to know Doug and his family over the past year and they are the real deal,” Goldsmith states. “Doug really wants to get a job but his disability has affected his chances.”
Currently the family makes do with a 2006 Ford Taurus. Goldsmith commented that for Doug to get in and out of that small car and fit the rest of this family in as well is very tough and uncomfortable.
Doug was selected from a half dozen applicants and a panel reviewed the applications and met with the finalists. If you are interested in helping Doug or other veterans through the Wheels to Warrior program, call Tamara Harris at 772-932-1893.