Jim Wagner Honored for Veterans' Freedom Center

by Katie Wiedemann, Reporter

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By Katie Wiedemann

DUBUQUE, Iowa — There are few people who understand what veterans experience overseas other than fellow military members.
That’s why, as a veteran himself, Jim Wagner organized the Veterans’ Freedom Center.

From the outside, the Veteran’s Freedom Center may not catch much attention. But inside, the sound of scroll saws fill the room and midmorning chatter about health care. Yet, there’s a silent healing process heard all around.

Wagner said, “there’s a lot of people here with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress. When they have that Veterans will sit at home, they won’t do anything.”

This is a place to do something. A place to just be.

Veteran Joe Melssen said, “you can blow off some steam. You can tell a few stories if you want. “

The concept for the Veteran’s Freedom Center started when Jim Wagner was restoring an old car in a downtown garage. Some veterans took notice.

Wagner said, “so they started coming in just talking as it went on and it ended up I had 15-17 guys down there. “

Wagner and some friends used their own money to start what has now morphed into a popular place.

“It turned out the people of Dubuque and the tri-state area backed us so well that the Veterans started coming and coming and coming, “ said Wagner.

Wagner surprised Melssen with a gift to take home. A magnifier, to help him read fine print. One of the many ways he says Wagner has impacted him.

“I come home from out here and I’m a different person, “ said Melssen.

For other veterans, the center not only changed their life. It saved their life. Post-traumatic stress disorder and military service is the common thread that binds many of these Veterans. With Wagner there in the middle of it all, making the center a home.

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