Belgium Legion, friends turn rusty vehicle into classy transportation
When members of Belgium American Legion Post 412 and their friends headed to Lake Tomahawk to open Camp American Legion for the season, some went in style and took a special gift with them — a newly repaired and painted 1987 mini bus.
“They were so happy to see us. The camp director couldn’t believe it,” said Dan Gasser, who did much of the work at his farm on Highway LL in the Town of Belgium.
Gasser, Steve Hubing and Jim Karrels drove the handicapped-accessible bus to the camp. Inside was a log splitter, wood chipper and Wii games.
“They were in awe of everything we had with us, especially the log splitter,” Gasser said.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the renovation,” camp director Kevin Moshea said. “We look forward to showing the bus off this upcoming camp season, and for many years to come. We will take tremendous pride in driving it.
“The bus will enable us to comfortably transport veterans to and from events and activities throughout the Lake Tomahawk community in style. The decals on the bus will help also help us to promote Camp American Legion, which could potentially help us reach other disabled veterans and recruit more volunteers.”
Last year, more than 600 disabled or injured veterans stayed at the camp, which offers fishing, boating, hiking and other activities as well as physical therapy services. It is open from Memorial Day to the Friday after Labor Day.
Belgium Legion members have been opening and closing the camp for more than 40 years. They spend a week making repairs and painting 20 cabins, a physical therapy building and the cafeteria.
It’s one of the most fun and rewarding projects the Legion undertakes, member Tom Winker said.
“It’s the only camp of its kind in the United States,” he said. “Any disabled or injured veteran can stay for free at the camp.”
Gasser, who is not a Legion member, repairs the camp’s mechanical equipment.
“They have a long list for us and we take care of the most important things,” he said.
When they closed the camp last September, the group saw a rusty bus that had been donated by another Legion post.
“I said, ‘We can do the body paint on this,’” Gasser said.
“When we started it up, it backfired so loud that people hit the floor,” Karrels said.
The bus was hauled back to Belgium. Work began in earnest in December. New brakes, a muffler and air conditioning system were installed. The interior was cleaned, and a new paint job finished just in time to take the bus back to the camp.
“We sanded it in the morning, and in the afternoon we spray painted it, with Steve on one side and me on the other,” Gasser said.
“It was a group effort putting this all together,” Hubing said. “When you say ‘disabled veteran,’ people want to be involved.”
“It’s the same thing when we’re up there,” Karrels said. “If we need something, we go into town and people give it to us.”
More information on the camp is available on the Web site wilegion.org.
READY FOR CAMP, a 1987 handicapped-accessible mini bus got a new paint job and needed repairs from (front row, from left) Truck Marshall, Randy Rosebeck, Jim Karrels, Dan Gasser, (back row) Steve Hubing, Tom Winker and Neil Anderson. The bus was packed with a log splitter, wood chipper and Wii games before it was driven to Camp American Legion in Lake Tomahawk. Members of Belgium American Legion Post 412 spearheaded the effort. Photo by Sam Arendt