Groups donate time and materials to repair veteran's homeSubmitted: 11/14/2013

Adam Fox
10 p.m. Anchor/Reporter

MINOCQUA - Most Vietnam veterans didn't get a celebratory welcome home.

But a pair of Northwoods groups wanted to show veterans from wars past that they care now.

Veterans like Rich Koch remembers his first time in Vietnam.

"When you first get there you are real scared," Koch said. "You know nobody pays much attention to you because you are the new guy."

Koch felt the same way when he returned a year later from Vietnam in 1970. He flew into O'hare Airport past midnight and was picked up by his wife. He didn't get a hero's welcome.

But Koch knows first hand that people deal with veterans differently these days. Still, he was surprised when a group wanted to repair and remodel his home for free.

"I had no idea what they were going do," Koch said. "They say could we help you out and are there anything that you are planning to do."

An area Home Depot joined forces with the Wausua based Ultimate Sacrifice USA to repair and remodel Koch's home. They started work Thursday.

More than ten volunteers took down old cabinets, pulled up old carpet and removed bathroom fixtures. Home Depot's Jason Kuharske says the home need some work.

"It definitely was needed," Kuharske said. "You could probably live there, but it will be nice to know that they can come to a home instead of just a house."

Home Depot donated around $20,000 in material and labor. They replaced floors, cabinets, vanities and other items in the house.

They worked with Ultimate Sacrifice USA founder Bob Cankar. He used to run a business, but enjoys this more.

"The business can't compare to being able to help a veteran that when they went in they didn't know if they we're going to be coming back," Cankar said.

But Koch did make it back, and now he's getting help from the people he fought for. He believes this is finally his welcome home.

"It's beyond words I can't explain it to you," Koch said. "It's like a miracle."

Related Weblinks:
Ultimate Sacrifice USA

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MERRILL - This weekend Northcentral Technical College hosted its fourth annual Fire and EMS University for firefighters across Wisconsin.

It provides training on firefighting and EMS techniques at the Public Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill.

In a simulation training exercise, firefighters have their hoods covering their face so they couldn't see anything when they entered a basement. They had to feel a fire hose and use teamwork to get around and save a dummy.

Firefighters from all over Wisconsin can come to the all-day event. They came to refresh their skills, teach and learn new techniques.

"We put out some classes that are very interesting and not run every day and if it applies to their department they'll send people," said Dean of the Public Safety Division of Northcentral Technical College Doug Jennings.

The school keeps adding other training tools as well. Just this year they added more training features, such as a simulator that allows law enforcement to practice driving trucks, squad cars and EMS vehicles.

On Saturday the students also trained with the aerial ladder.

"We are the only fire department in Lincoln County with an aerial ladder," said Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone. "And so most of our firefighters have to operate our aerial ladder. And so we felt this truck operation aerial ladder operations is a great class for them to come and see."

UST Fire Apparatus brought a new aerial ladder truck for the students to practice with, and teachers from southern Wisconsin and St. Louis, Mo., also came to help coach.

Firefighters say they want to constantly re-educate themselves.

"It's great to get the extra practice," said Dean Johnson from the Town of Wausau Fire Department.

Northcentral Technical College also offers semester schedule curricula for law enforcement and fire science. 

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Uihlein is seeking to buy 1.75 acres along Rest Lake, where the footpath is located. But a tentative deal with the Department of Natural Resources was put on hold after critics raised questions.

A DNR spokesman says the agency inspected the site on Thursday and found an "established trail." He declined to say whether the department had talked to Uihlein or her representatives.

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Merrill High School hosted the Merrill Marching Invitational. Three high school marching bands took over the football field at Merrill High School Sunday.

Antigo, D.C. Everest, and Merrill high schools all showcased their musical creativity.

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Volunteers at Pointe Basse recreated a historical camp that portrayed the lives of people from the 1700s and early 1800s.

Volunteers from all across the U.S. had a piece of history to share.

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The event featured a hay maze, horse-drawn carriage rides, food, and live music all afternoon.

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Organizers say the weather this year brought in many more visitors.

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