When Hero’s Bridge received a call from Quantico about a veteran needing help, the nonprofit quickly mobilized. A Vietnam Army veteran was relocating from Woodbridge to Front Royal and, with no family in the area, he needed help moving. The call was received on July 22 and less than two weeks later, he and his service cat, Thor, were settled in their new home -- thanks to more than 30 civilian, active and retired military volunteers who stepped up to help him.
Upon receiving the call, Katherine Knoble, Hero’s Bridge volunteer coordinator, quickly secured a moving truck and began assembling volunteers that included Army and Air Force cadets, hospital corpsmen, commissary men, Hero’s Bridge volunteers and their family members.
Volunteers that day share many of the same reasons for lending their time:
Lt. Col. Haines comes from a family of military officers going back many generations. “My family members have contributed and sacrificed to make this country the amazing country that it is today. I try to capitalize on opportunities to give back [and] challenge everyone to attend an engagement event of Hero’s Bridge to see the impact it has on veterans.” Haines, who helped with moving, retired from 20 years and 22 days of Army service on Aug. 1.
For HM2 Poimboeuf of the United States Navy, “Hero’s Bridge is important because it helps veterans know that the community has not forgotten them or their service. As an active-duty sailor coming from a military family, it is important that I serve my veterans because they are still my brothers and sisters at arms.”
Virginia Tech ROTC Army Cadet Jacob Steblein volunteers his time with Hero’s Bridge because “as a future Army officer, it is an excellent opportunity to be able to give back to those individuals who served our country and reflect on their stories and experiences so I can use their knowledge when I become an Army officer.”
Twenty-one volunteers met at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 4 at Clifford Timchak’s Woodbridge home where they packed the contents of his one-bedroom apartment into a U-Haul truck. Poimboeuf presented him with a Navy coin, symbolically exchanged through a handshake. Referred to as a challenge coin, it can be offered to increase morale among troops and today is one way for veteran and active members to connect with one another.
After 90 minutes of loading, the pack-up team departed and Hero’s Bridge volunteers drove more than 70 miles with Timchak to his new cottage in Front Royal, where they were met by another 12 volunteers who were part of the unpacking team.
An hour after arrival, the truck sat empty and Timchak began to unpack his boxes and settle into his cottage overlooking the Shenandoah River. Overwhelmed with emotion at the outpouring of support, Timchak said repeatedly that Hero’s Bridge volunteers were the family that he had never had. His two brothers have passed away, one recently, in November 2017; “He survived Vietnam and fought cancer for 20 years before passing,” shared Timchak. He has one surviving sister who lives in Phoenix.
Timchak served in the Army from 1966 to 1969 and was stationed in South Vietnam, 9th combat engineer and 86 airborne batons, where he drove a deuce.
United States troops peaked in Vietnam in 1968 with President Johnson’s approval of an increased maximum number of troops to 549,500. It was also the deadliest year of the war with the United States seeing 16,592 killed. The Tet Offensive, Feb. 11 to 17, 1968, was the deadliest week of the Vietnam War. A total of 543 Americans were killed in action and another 2,547 were wounded. Helping veterans like Timchak was among the reasons Molly Brooks and David Benhoff began Hero’s Bridge. They desired an organization that would step in to help veterans when they did not have family to rely on. “For all they have done for us, it is the least that we could do for them,” says Molly Brooks.
Hero’s Bridge is dedicated to serving elderly veterans, age 65 and older. The group serves, stands by and honors our veterans through six distinct programs. Visit www.herosbridge.org for more information, to donate or to become a volunteer.