Five Hours, 15 Miles, and One Pair of Shoes: How a Retired Veteran Made His Journey for Help in Madison

Story & photos by Cooper Adams, American Red Cross

In a podiatrist’s chair at a repurposed community center nurse’s office, West Jones could finally rest his feet.

West_Jodi_2

West Jones, left, poses with Jodi Grosinske, an organizer of Stand Down Madison.

Two days ago, Jones, a retired Marine, had heard about Stand Down Madison, a resources event for veterans. He knew he could use the help. But, without a car, ride or bus pass, Jones made his way more than 15 miles to the event the only way he could: he walked.

“Everyone has their own ways of doing things,” Jones said. “And walking here was my way.”

After the five-hour walk – along city streets from his home in Stoughton to the event in Madison – Jones was one of dozens of veterans greeted by organizations at Stand Down Madison. Organizer Jodi Grosinske guided Jones to the podiatrist’s chair for a check-up and pedicure, and introduced him to a slew of other agencies on hand to help, including the American Red Cross and volunteer Chuck Patzer.


You’re just a click away from Red Cross resources. Download the free Hero Care App today for quick access to all the ways the Red Cross supports veterans, service members and military families.


Jones’s transportation troubles spotlight the range of challenges expressed by veterans at Stand Down Madison, which centers on veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness. After receiving first-hand compassion to go along with hygiene items, a sewing kit and that pedicure, Jones also got a ride back to his home. It was part of a longer journey.

From Marines to Madison

In his younger years, Jones wanted to serve his country any way he could. He was intrigued by the slogan “The Marine Corps Builds Men” and decided to enlist.

In boot camp in San Diego, Jones said he kept everyone’s morale high with his humor and positive attitude. West described his time as a good experience overall. He’d gotten to meet all kinds of people during his service. Once at a shooting range, Jones said he fired 10 rounds and hit 10 bullseyes, which garnered respect from his platoon. But, after only eight months, he was discharged.

“There was something wrong with my brain,” Jones clarified. “It should’ve been looked at before I was sent to boot camp.”

After his discharge, Jones spent the next 30 years with his brother, an Air Force veteran. They took care of each other (West said his brother was injured while serving). West also found comfort in an exploration of his faith.

Now, Jones lives alone in Stoughton. When he’d learned about Stand Down Madison, he knew it was a chance to take advantage of resources he needed, prompting his 15-mile hike. During this morning-long event in October, veterans like Jones received everything from legal representation to hygiene items, from career opportunities to hot meals. Jones was very grateful for everything available, and filled his cart with deodorant, printed-out Bible verses, and a sewing kit.

From One Veteran to Another

Chuck Patzer

Chuck Patzer, volunteer with the American Red Cross and a Vietnam War veteran, at an October 2019 veteran resource event in Madison.

While visiting the Red Cross booth, Jones met fellow veteran and volunteer, Chuck Patzer.

Since birth, Patzer’s life had been intertwined with the military. While his mother visited his father stationed in California during World War II, he was born. As a young man, Patzer was drafted for the Vietnam War and served as a signal translator all over the world, including Virginia, Germany, and Vietnam. Fifty years later, Patzer is still doing his part to help those who have served, like West Jones.

Patzer has been a volunteer for the American Red Cross for 10 years. Inspired by the need after Hurricane Katrina, Patzer, a retired letter carrier, came to a Red Cross office with a donation of blankets. There, Patzer was asked if he’d like to volunteer. In his decade of volunteer service since, Patzer has primarily helped as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member and as a volunteer with the Service to Armed Forces team. As a DAT lead, Patzer travels to sites of disasters like fires or floods, offering assistance.

“We provide things like food and offer help to people who need it,” Patzer explained. “It’s an emotional time, but the people we help are always thankful, even if they just needed a hug”.

With veterans, Patzer said the most important thing he provides is comfort. Veterans who suffer from dementia may feel lost, so Patzer said he brings along animatronic animals to spark their memories of childhood pets. The sweet sounds these faux felines and canines make can help to ease stress for veterans he meets. It’s also an entry point, to talk, to listen, and to share. From there, Patzer said he can provide other hygiene basics on offer from the Red Cross and let them know their sacrifice and service are deeply appreciated.

You can meet and help veterans, service members, and their families. Join our Service to the Armed Forces volunteers. Take that first step by clicking here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: