WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — To thousands of veterans across the country, James Bower is known by a different name.
“It’s been kinda neat to meet people and go, oh, you’re the ‘Veteran Bargains’ guy!” Bower said.
Since 2011, Bower has run a free website — compiling hundreds of resources for veterans.
“There’s a lot of information out there, but it’s all segmented,” Bower said. “The nationwide list has over 400 places. The Wichita list has 130 places — vets can’t get to them all,” Bower said.
Bower’s website features dozens of nonprofits specifically for veterans. Referencing a class parable, they’re what Bower calls his “starfish” organizations.
“So I’m taking the starfish, and I’m throwing them back in the water … and the Young Man says, ‘Old Man, there must be miles of beach and thousands of starfish; you can’t possibly make a difference!’ And the Old Man reaches down, and he picks up a starfish, and he tosses it into the ocean, and he says ‘I made a difference to that one,'” Bower said.
Bower says his support of the military started at a young age.
“My dad served during Korea … he was my hero, and he was the one that I think really got me started on that trajectory,” Bower said.
Bower himself is a Vietnam-era veteran: a helicopter mechanic at Fort Riley and a reforager in Germany. Bower says one of his favorite memories of his time in the U.S. Army is when he would drive armed personnel carriers on the Autobahn.
“We had helmets with intercoms, but our intercom didn’t work, so my track commander picked up a big stick, and he would tap me on one side of the helmet or the other side of the helmet depending upon which way he wanted me to go,” Bower said.
At 19, Bower was promoted to Sergeant and was responsible for the care of his entire company’s building.
Years later, Bower took his skills to the VA, where he processed roughly 24,000 claims.
“I would thank each vet, and I would say, on behalf of myself and our country, I’d like to thank you for your service … and I remember very distinctly talking to combat-hardened veterans that was, just start bawling on the phone, ‘cuz nobody had ever thanked ’em,” Bower said.
Bower says the discipline instilled in him from his time in the service helped make his website a reality.
“If you had somebody who was falling behind, you helped them to catch up, and if you were falling behind, others reached back and helped you as well … and I think that carries on,” Bower said.
Bower was also instrumental in the planning process to bring the Moving Wall to Valley Center. For more information on the Moving Wall, click here.
If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at firstname.lastname@example.org.