John Viehl, a Valparaiso resident and officer of Porter County’s Disabled American Veterans Association, loves the great outdoors. A nature boy at heart, he makes himself at home in just about any terrain or climate, be it a particularly sandy beach or a frigid, snow-covered forest. Given his penchant to remain both calm and energized in any extreme, it’s no wonder that Viehl thrives on the challenge of assisting others in need.
Viehl has been involved with the Porter County DAV for about two and half years.
“It’s a great organization, it really is,” Viehl says. “All of the money we collect goes strictly to disabled veterans in Porter County, and their families, if they need assistance.”
Viehl described the important donations and fundraisers that the DAV focuses on, such as the “Forget-Me-Not Days,” a drive specific to the individual locations of DAV associations. Every cent goes to that community’s disabled veterans.
A particular cause that Viehl is getting behind benefits Porter County disabled veterans in a special way.
“The big program we’re working on is this: we’re buying a small bus, one that’s fully capable of handling any veteran and their needs,” Viehl said. “It will be totally accessible. It’s wheelchair accessible and scooter accessible.”
The bus will be used for transporting disabled veterans from the Porter County area to the Veterans Affairs center in Crown Point.
“We started raising money last year. We need to raise a little over $18,000,” Viehl explained. “[Valparaiso Ford Dealership] is taking care of the rest of the costs; that’s where we’re getting the bus.”
General assemblies take place on the fourth Friday of every month at Valparaiso’s V.F.W. Post #988. Viehl stresses that general meetings are open to any disabled veteran who wishes to join. Donations are always welcome, especially with this project underway.
Viehl has called Valparaiso home since 2013. His fondness for activity lends itself well to Valparaiso’s proximity to such adventurous locations as the Indiana Dunes, in addition to the many smaller adventures available.
“The best thing about Valpo is the accessibility!” Viehl said. “Accessibility to just about everything—grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, coffeeshops, even the brand new Meijer, opening sometime in the spring—just about anything you want is right here in Valpo.”
Nevertheless, it’s the more natural wonders that please Viehl.
“In the summertime, I like the water,” Viehl said. “I love the water and I love camping. And in the wintertime…I don’t mind snow. I’m one of those guys who doesn’t mind snow. I mean, I’m 73 years old and I still love tubing!”
Viehl laughed, remembering how similar his own grandfather was.
“You know, there used to be these toboggan slides in Swallow Cliff, just south of Chicago. [There were] six toboggan chutes,” Viehl recalled. “My grandfather was 89 years old and he climbed all of those steps and rode down on that toboggan. He only did it one time—that was enough for him. But just the fact of him doing it was absolutely amazing.”
John Viehl is doing some pretty amazing things, himself.