Reed City veteran receives compassionate, much-needed gift

‘This guy got hurt doing what 90% of us don’t do, and he needs help’

Russ Nehmer, center, is surrounded by employees from the Big Rapids Lowe's as they present him with a new Craftsman snowblower.

Russ Nehmer, center, is surrounded by employees from the Big Rapids Lowe's as they present him with a new Craftsman snowblower.

Photo courtesy/Bruce Reges

BIG RAPIDS — Each year, on Nov. 11, the United States has honored those living Americans who have served their country, while honoring the memories of the many soldiers that never got a chance to come home.

This day of remembrance signed into action by President Dwight Eisenhower is known as Veterans Day, and has been observed since 1954.

Before then, the annual holiday was referred to as Armistice Day, a day to honor the many fallen soldiers who lost their lives fighting in Europe during World War I.

At the time, WWI was commonly known as “The Great War,” and — perhaps more ironically — “The war to end all wars.”

As the next few years went by, more American lives were lost in battles overseas, which prompted Eisenhower to update the tradition to be more inclusive and respectful to veterans of a younger generation.

Today, Veterans Day is observed in small towns and big cities across the nation, highlighted by jovial parades, coupled with equally somber moments of silence for those killed or missing in action.

What’s often not seen during the annual day of patriotic remembrance is the plethora of hand-to-hand, one-on-one interactions and support shared between veterans who share a common, sometimes painful, bond.

A prime example of this lifetime bond is the one that is shared between local U.S. Army veterans Russ Nehmer and Bruce Reges. 

Five years ago with the help of East Side Veteran’s Group and Lowe’s, Reges was able to get Nehmer a much-needed snowblower for the upcoming winter.

During his tour of duty in Afghanistan, an explosion threw Nehmer into the ring mount of a nearby armored vehicle, causing severe and lasting damage to his back.

“He couldn't shovel as well as he wanted and he didn’t have a snowblower,” Reges said. 

Reges promptly went to Lowe’s in Big Rapids and managed to get his friend a new snowblower with a $100 discount. 

That particular machine sifted through its last drift of snow last winter, resulting in a return trip to Lowe’s for a replacement blower.

There was just one problem: the warranty for the snowblower had expired the previous winter, once again leaving Nehmar sans a snowblower.

With the winter fast-approaching, Reges, the East Side Veterans Group and Lowe’s in Big Rapids had another meeting of the minds.

“I went over to the store and said: ‘This is something I bought and set up five years ago, bought an extended warranty, and now you’re saying you’re not going to cover it,’” Reges said. “I said: ‘Look, do you know who we’re talking about here? This guy got hurt doing what 90% of us don’t do, and he needs help.’”

With all parties at long last on the same page, Lowe’s got to work and fulfilled their end of the deal, until they realized the snowblower’s transmission was damaged beyond repair.

After holding a managerial meeting, Lowe’s came forward and decided they would supply Nehmer with a brand new snowblower and cover half of the cost.

“Half is a pretty darn good discount — snowblowers are not cheap,” Reges said. 

The new snowblower gifted to Nehmer is a self-propelled, self-starting Craftsman model for just under $900.

Reges, with the help of some of his fellow members at the East Side Veterans Group, have stepped up to cover the remaining cost of the snowblower.

“I went over and paid for it the other day, but I’ve already gotten $190 from the group, and they’re not all done giving,” Reges said. “(Lowe’s) doesn't have to do that, but they did. They’ve always supported veterans.”

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, Nehmer made his way to the Big Rapids Lowe’s, where he met his new Craftsman snowblower for the first time, just ahead of another Michigan winter.

Nehmer and Reges are combat veterans who have served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively.

Nehmer is currently a Reed City council member, as well as a member of the veteran’s group.

The East Side Veterans Group is a collection of local veterans who meet twice monthly at the Wild Rose Cafe in downtown Big Rapids.

“It’s just where we get together and help each other out doing things sometimes, and just seeing how we’re doing,” Reges said. “No politics — we don’t want to get into any of that nonsense. No trauma, because it’s not a ‘trauma group.’”