Veterans help one of their own

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, November 1, 2008
— John Henry Williams protected his fellow soldiers in the Vietnam War, but now his comrades are caring for him.

Williams, 56, suffered a stroke in May, leaving him paralyzed on his left side. He’s been in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah since May.

“He’s basically in a wheelchair,” girlfriend Janet Williams said. “He can’t walk up steps or get into the house on his own.”

When John learned he needed a wheelchair ramp, his fellow veterans chipped in. A dozen men on Friday built a 17-foot ramp outside his south Janesville home. All the labor and materials were donated.

“The No. 1 thing is veterans take care of veterans,” said Ed Martinez of the United Auto Workers Local 95 Veterans Committee. “Once you’re military, you’re always military.”

John can only walk short distances after suffering the stroke. He is diabetic and has nerve damage. He is fortunate the stroke didn’t impact his mind, speech or sense of humor.

Physical therapy has improved his physical capabilities, but he still needed the wheelchair ramp.

Janet was given an estimate of $1,100 to build a ramp and deck at their home’s front door. The cost didn’t include labor.

It was too expensive.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she said.

Doctors wouldn’t approve releasing John until his house was wheelchair accessible. It would have been unsafe for him to be home in case of a fire or other emergency.

Larry Abbott, a neighbor, decided to get help. His son is an Iraq War veteran. He also knows veterans in the union. He made a few phone calls.

“I just wanted to see if we could get him home. He’s a good neighbor,” Abbott said. “Bad things happen to good people.”

Martinez got involved. He asked other veterans to get involved.

“Everybody we called said, ‘When do you want me?’” Martinez said. “There’s just a special bond that veterans have. It’s a brotherhood.”

On Friday afternoon, men were driving screws into lumber. Saws were screeching. A young boy was sweeping away sawdust.

The deck was nearly complete, but railings needed to be added.

“I think it’s awesome,” Janet said, admiring the ramp. “I can’t thank these guys enough.”

John has no idea the ramp was built. It will be a surprise. If doctors approve, John will be home by Thanksgiving.

“Thank God for friends and neighbors,” Janet said.

Last updated: 11:00 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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