THE JEFFERSON AWARDS: Our December winner helps area veterans

Our December winner of the Jefferson Award lives a life devoted to our nation’s heroes. 

Ron Laughlin is retired, but he spends several days a week driving veterans from Fillmore County to their medical appointments at the VA in Minneapolis. 

He’s been doing it for the last 11 years. 

Those days can sometimes last as long as 12 hours. 

"Some of them are 80, 85 years old and they don’t feel comfortable driving that far," Laughlin said. "A lot of times we’re leaving before daylight and getting back after dark and they don’t like night driving."

Laughlin himself is a Navy veteran. 

He served several years in Vietnam. 

He says that often helps break the ice for him and his passengers. 

"There’s a lot of veteran talk, what they’ve done in the service," Laughlin said. "I’ve had the privilege of taking prisoners of war veterans up, one lived in Mabel I believe, and they talk about their experiences and it’s just very interesting for me. And then I spend a lot of my time on the fourth floor at the VA that’s where the Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans who have been wounded and probably not going to go home again and so I spend a lot of time up there."

The Fillmore County Veteran Service Officer, Jason Marquardt, says all Laughlin’s time spent driving is a vital contribution. 

"We rely on people like Ron to do this job and really thank them for the service they’re providing for these veterans."

Long-time family friend Gabby Kinneberg nominated Ron for the Jefferson Award. 

"He would always talk about he loved doing it, but sometimes the driving it was like, holy cow he’s on the road, you didn’t get home till late?" explained Kinneberg. "And I thought how cool for a guy who’s retired to take on another job really and that’s why I thought he would be great for this award."

Laughlin says veterans deserve all the help they can get, and that’s why he has no plans to stop anytime soon. 

"It’s a very interesting and gratifying and satisfying job," he said. "And I can’t say enough about these guys. They deserve everything they get, they really do."

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