Veteran advocate celebrates birthday and anniversary of veteran program

Tommy Zurhellen with one of the VetZero transport vehicles.

TOWN OF POUGHKEEPSIE – Professor, author, former VFW post commander, and staunch veterans advocate Tommy Zurhellen turned 53-years-old last week and celebrated by raising funds for a ride service for veterans that he helped launch there years ago.

In 2019 the imposing Zurhellen was the commander of the VFW Post 170 in Poughkeepsie and walked across the country to raise awareness of the alarming number of veterans that commit suicide on a daily basis.  When he returned, he partnered with Hudson River Housing Executive Director Christa Hines to launch a new program to help veterans.  The result was the VetZero Heroes Driving Heroes program.

Zurhellen’s birthday party on Friday coincided with the third anniversary of the ride program and dozens of people gathered at the VFW Post 170 for a birthday party and fundraiser for the ride program. The VetZero Heroes Driving Heroes Ride program provides free car rides for local veterans to useful destinations such as the Castle Point Medical Center.  For more information or to request a ride, call 833-VET-ZERO.

Zurhellen noted that many veterans cite transportation to and from important meetings, such as doctor appointments or work interviews, as one of the greatest barriers to their leading a healthy and successful life.  In the first three years of operation, the program has provided more than 2,000 rides to veterans in need.

Christa Hines said, “Hudson River Housing is so proud to partner with Tommy on the VetZero initiative.”  With regard to the ride program, Hines said “There is a tremendous need for the program and, with the support of donors, we would like to expand the service.”  The Heroes Ride program currently has two vehicles and two drivers that transport Dutchess County veterans, at no charge, to a variety of locations.

Zurhellen spoke at the party to tout the program and requested public support.  “We want to get better at it,” he said.  Donations can be made by clicking here.

Zurhellen’s journey across America by foot was recounted in his book “The Low Road” and the proceeds from the sales of the book are donated to the VetZero program.  The book can be purchased here.

The video of Zurhellen speaking at the celebration of his 53rd trip around the sun is below.

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