LAKE PARK —
Ron Neumann has a hard enough time accepting help let alone being called a hero.
Neumann spent his life relying on himself, standing on his own two feet, pulling himself up by his bootstraps. He preferred helping others rather than accepting help for himself. He worked 20 years as a foreman in a manufacturing company; he ran a lawn-care business for several years.
But through the years, Neumann underwent triple-bypass heart surgery. He battles cancer which took his left lung in 2000, cancer which has left him needing two canes to walk.
Yet, from 1957-1963, Neumann served with the Air National Guard.
A Shelby, Ohio, native, he enlisted in the Ohio Air National Guard. He spent time at Lackland Air Force Base, Amarillo AFB, and McCord AFB. Attached to the 164th Tactical Fighter Squadron and the 179th Combat Support Squadron, Neumann “was a jet mechanic and served on active duty from 1961-1962 and continued in the Reserves. He was discharged in February of 1963 as an airman first class.”
It is this military service that made Neumann eligible for the House of Heroes program. This project is dedicated to repaying veterans’ service by helping them with the maintenance of their homes. Work which the veterans can no longer effectively perform due to age, disability or lack of finances. It is dedicated to helping surviving veterans.
Pastor Wayne Anthony founded House of Heroes in 1999 while in Columbus. In the past several years, House of Heroes has helped veterans in Columbus and Philadelphia; Plano, Texas, and Charlotte, N.C.; Phoenix, Ariz., and Nashville, Tenn.; and several communities across Georgia, including the Valdosta-area for the past two years.
Anthony served as pastor for Lake Park United Methodist Church, which adopted the program.
Neumann is one of six veterans or veterans’ widows selected for the 2014 House of Heroes. In some cases, the projects have already been completed. In other cases, the work will be completed on June 24, when numerous teenagers are scheduled to volunteer followed by a public 2 p.m. ceremony at Lake Park United Methodist Church.
For Ron and wife Arlene Neumann work began a few weeks ago. House of Heroes volunteers Joe Wetherington and Gene Toffolo have already built a handicap-accessible ramp into the Neumanns’ home. They have pressure-washed the house’s exterior and painted some areas.
Wetherington and fellow House of Heroes volunteer Tim Oliver say the project is important because it helps veterans, their spouses and widows live more comfortably in their homes. Through the youth portion, it introduces young people to veterans and the idea of service.
“A young person may see this elderly guy at their church or in their neighborhood and think he is frail,” Wetherington says. “They don’t realize that elderly guy may be the toughest guy they’ve ever met.”
Neumann doesn’t see himself as that guy. He says repeatedly there are veterans more deserving than him; there are guys who saw combat; guys who really need help.
As for his ailments, Neumann says, “I don’t meditate on it. No matter how bad I am, I always feel like I’m better off than someone else. That’s who should be getting the help.”
Wetherington speaks to Neumann. “That attitude is why we created this program. You grew up sacrificing and we want to do something for you.”
House of Heroes does not need additional volunteers for the June 24 event, but the public is invited to the 2 p.m. ceremony at Lake Park United Methodist Church. More information: Visit www.houseofheroes.org