Death of Disabled War Veteran Inspires Wisconsin VFW to Gift Van – State Commander will Tour the State to Foster Lonnie’s Legacy
CITY OF MADISON, JANUARY 27, 2021 —During the week leading up to the VFW Department of Wisconsin’s Midwinter Conference in Manitowoc on February 5th and 6th, State Commander Jason E. Johns will tour the state in Lonnie’s van, visiting with VFW Post leadership to personally deliver dozens of 75th-anniversary certificates of recognition signed by the VFW’s National Commander.
Numerous VFW Posts were chartered within a year after the end of WWII and have been serving Veterans in their communities every day since. “It is impressive to reach the milestone of 75 years in any business, much less a nonprofit focused on supporting Veterans,” said Commander Johns.
Due to the pandemic and the restrictions on gathering, VFW Posts have been challenged in conducting their monthly business. Technology like ZOOM, MS Teams, and Skype are the new methods of gathering, virtually for the VFW. “Now that we have learned how to reduce spreading the virus by wearing masks and social distancing, it’s time to visit Posts’ leadership to present these certificates in a safe manner. I am driving Lonnie’s Van to ensure VFW leaders across the state know about this opportunity,” says Johns. The van is tailored to provide independence to a severely disabled veteran.
Lonnie’s Van is a donation from Marilyn Grau whose husband “Lonnie” was confined to a wheelchair after a spinal cord injury. Lonnie was a Vietnam Veteran that succumbed to cancer last year. His van, a 2018 Chrysler Pacifica has under 1500 miles on it and has had tens of thousands of dollars in special accommodations made, which allows for any veteran to drive it, regardless of whether in a wheelchair, wearing prosthetics, or any other severe disability or injury. Marilyn’s wish is for another severely disabled Veteran to be able to experience the freedom, independence, and self-sufficiency that Lonnie felt.
The VFW Department of Wisconsin will honor Lonnie’s Legacy of service by selecting a severely disabled Wisconsin Veteran best suited for this van and present it at the Wisconsin VFW’s 100th State Convention in Milwaukee next June. The veteran does not have to be a VFW member to apply but is encouraged. Additional information and how to apply can be found at www.vfwwi.org.