Dubuque veteran gives back to local Veterans Center in unusual way
DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Chris Billmyer is a Dubuque veteran who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan in 2010.
His service there only lasted about a month, before an explosion took both of his legs. He spent two years recovering in the hospital.
Billmyer said life after serving has not been easy.
“It can be tough some days," he said. "It can be frustrating, but I have got a lot of reward and sometimes good things come from bad things and bad things come from good things, so I think I encompass that mantra a lot.”
He said he got a lot of attention in Dubuque when he got back from combat. Insert the Veteran’s Freedom Center.
“You have all this media and coverage on you and you are there and you are active, but you needed some time to recover and self-reflect," he explained. "In the meantime, I would stop down here and see how Jim is doing, hang out, drink coffee, and kind of BS with the guys down here. It’s always a good time.”
For Jim Wagner, the Veteran’s Freedom Center’s co-founder, the connection with Billmyer was instant.
“I was amazed right away at Chris’s personality; he just was not going to let anything get him down,” he remembered. “Chris and I have an understanding: I treat Chris just like I treat everybody else and I think he likes that.”
And every now and then, Billmyer pulls a surprise on his good friend.
“He phoned me on the phone and he said, ‘I want to give you a bass boat and I kind of started laughing,’ Wagner said. “Then he said, ‘No, I am serious.’”
Billmyer said he has been using the boat for years, but with his schedule, it is hard to give it the love it needs. So he thought of Wagner.
“He is a great guy and he gets people out doing things and I think this is a great new captain for the boat, paying forward in a sense," Billmyer explained. “I do not want to step on his toes, but, you know, maybe future veteran’s fishing tournaments and weekend fishing outings to get guys out of their houses and on the water.”
Wagner said this is more than just a boat.
“I thought, ‘How great is that?’, especially right now with this COVID thing to be able to take some veterans fishing I think is going to be the greatest thing you can do for them," Wagner commented. “He is absolutely a guy that cares and he cares about his veterans.”
But, of course, as with most good deals, there was a catch.
“Chris did put a stipulation on it: I have to take him fishing,” Wagner admitted.
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