VERONA (WKOW) — With the cold weather settling in, our furnaces are working hard to keep up. One Verona veteran’s furnace hadn’t run in two years.
This Monday was the first warm Veterans Day for Behr in two years.
“The first night was an absolute luxury,” Gary Behr said.
“The heat went off and I didn’t even realize it,” he said. “After she passed, I was just in a blur.”
Behr served in the Army during the 1960s, and again 10 years later.
After he was discharged, he and his wife Linda moved to Verona, where they had lived together for decades, until she got sick a few years ago.
“During that time, I was paying attention to her and not what was going on at the house,” Behr said. Linda passed away two years ago.
Since then, Behr used sweaters, space heaters and plastic hung from the ceiling to try to stay as warm as possible until last month, when he finally got help.
Heat’s On is a yearly program that fixes veterans’ furnaces for free right before the winter sets in.
“He said, ‘You really went through the last two years without heat?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,'” Behr said.
“I knew the furnace wasn’t running,” technician Adam Vesterfelt said. “And then once I turned it on, it wouldn’t give power when I gave it a call.”
Vesterfelt has volunteered with the Heat’s On program for four years.
“It’s nice to get to know people and get to know what he did,” Vesterfelt said of Behr. “He flew a helicopter, which is amazing. Just hearing those stories makes you appreciate what you’re doing that much more.”
This year, Heat’s On fixed nearly 60 furnaces in Veteran’s homes just like Behr’s.
“They’ve given so much time of their lives,” Vesterfelt said. “It’s the least we can do to give back to the veterans.”
For Behr, it’s more than just a warm house. It’s a thanks that he wants all veterans to feel.
“Take care of our vets,” he said. “They deserve everything.”
Behr doesn’t want any other veteran to go years without heat.
Veterans interested in a free furnace check next fall can call the Dane County Veterans Service Office at (608) 266-4158.