Jon Van Brocklin has given up a lot for his country, including his mental health.
Recently, a local business gave something back to him.
The story involves Van Brocklin’s wife, Jami, and a broken garage door opener.
But it starts with Jon Van Brocklin’s amazing military experience, which includes tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jon joined the U.S. Army in 2005 and was first stationed in Fort Riley, Kan., with the 1st Infantry Division. With the 1st Infantry, which calls itself the Big Red One, Jon was in direct combat with his division in Tikrit, Iraq, in 2006-07.
After his Army contract was up in 2009, Jon, now 35, emerged with post-traumatic stress disorder, said Jami, a licensed practical nurse who is studying to become a registered nurse.
He joined the Wisconsin National Guard, Jami said. After a brief time there, they moved to Alabama, and Jon joined the Alabama National Guard’s 1-167th Infantry Regiment.
The regiment was deployed to Afghanistan. It changed Jon’s life.
On March 2, 2013, a suicide bomber blew himself up 3 feet in front of Jon, his direct target. Jon was knocked unconscious for 45 minutes.
“They reported him as dead,” Jami said.
Jon returned to consciousness with a traumatic brain injury, a condition he still lives with, Jami continued. Incredibly, even in that state, Jon killed the suicide bomber who had torn himself up but not totally detonated his explosives or finished himself off.
Jon was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star of Valor. He medically retired from the Army that June, suffers panic attacks and is still in treatment for both PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
“He is 100 percent disabled,” Jami said, “but he has all his body parts.”
The Van Brocklins landed on Racine’s south side with a mortgage-free home courtesy of the Military Warriors Support Foundation. Recently the garage door motor quit working. About two weeks ago, Jami called Jim’s Garage Door Service of Racine.
Because the garage door was inoperable, the installers, Jeff Hanson and Tyler Larsen, entered through the house’s front door. “They saw the military pictures and the plaque for the (free) house,” Jami said. They got to talking, and Jami told the installers Jon’s military story.
Given the choice between a new garage door opener for $329 or replacing a circuit board for $183, Jami chose the cheaper option.
That required ordering the replacement part, and a few days later, Jami called Jim’s to ask about it.
“I asked if I could be billed; we were between (disability) checks,” she said.
What she didn’t know was that after the installers visited the Van Brocklins’ home, that night Hanson went home and talked with his wife about the wounded veteran, said Annette Pedersen, office manager at Jim’s Garage Door.
The next morning, she said, Hanson went to company owner Larry Vail.
“He said he would donate his time and asked Larry if he could do something for the circuit board,” Pedersen said. “Larry said, ‘If you’re willing to donate your time, I’ll donate the circuit board.’ ”
So, when Jami called to ask about being billed for the repair, “I just told her it was taken care of,” Pedersen said.
“She started crying and said ‘thank you’ over and over.”
“I thought we would have to pay out of pocket,” Jon said. “That was really cool and unexpected.”
Vail’s only comment, Pedersen said, was “I didn’t want all this publicity.”
“They have a customer for life,” Jami said, “and next time, I’m going to pay!”