MUSCATINE, Iowa–Fresh out of high school in 1967, Gary Ronzheimer and a friend enlisted in the Army. For Ronzheimer, the choice led to a 22 year career he never regretted. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it again,” he said emphatically.
After completing basic training, Ronzheimer did his advanced individual training in engineering, which eventually led him to work as a tank mechanic. Although he and his friend had planned to stay in the same unit though the Buddy Program, their different training led them in different directions.
With his training complete, Ronzheimer served in Germany for several months before deploying to Vietnam in 1969. Once he arrived in Vietnam, Ronzheimer worked for a month steady to find the friend who he enlisted with and to get moved to his unit. Ronzheimer welcomed the reunion and gladly served as a bridge builder while his friend worked as a cook. “That was really a happy day for me,” he recalled. Later, in 1991, Ronzheimer served in Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait.
Though retired, Ronzheimer’s legacy of service continued with his son, now a battalion chief with the Muscatine Fire Department, who spent 20 years in the navy. It also continued through Ronzheimer’s own creativity.
An accomplished carpenter, Ronzheimer always enjoyed crafting things from wood. More recently though, he has expanded his creativity to other media. About a month ago, Ronzheimer got a new powerchair to improve his mobility. Right away, he knew he wanted to customize it and use it to celebrate his history.
Ronzheimer headed out to the hardware store and purchased a variety of colors of Duck Tape and used it to recreate some of his service ribbons, create a US Army sign on the headrest, and to add visibility and safety features as well. All together, Ronzheimer took about a week and a half to finish his project, and to add a cooler, radio, and horn to his chair as well.
Ronzheimer’s design has already started turning heads. When Erica Botello, a volunteer who delivers meals to Ronzheimer, saw the work, she encouraged him to share it with the community. He hopes his creativity will bring joy to other veterans, especially around Memorial Day.