VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System
Veteran-Owned Business Donates Hand Sanitizer
Veteran-Owned Business Affected By COVID-19 Shutdown,
Uses Talents To Support VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health
Care System By Donating 100 Gallons of Hand Sanitizer
OMAHA, Neb. – “To the staff of the VA in Omaha, you’ve got our Veterans’ backs… and we’ve got your back.”
Those were the words that retired Sgt. 1st Class Richard Hagedorn used when he and fellow Veteran Jeff Hadden delivered 100 gallons of specially made hand sanitizer to the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System’s Omaha campus on April 2.
Hadden and Hagedorn are the president and vice president of the Soldier Valley Spirits located in LaVista, Neb. Normally, their company specializes in distilling a variety of spirits that they package into distinctive bottles resembling World War II-era canteens. However, when the novel coronavirus 2019 pandemic forced them to temporarily shutter their popular business, the two Veterans – well known for donating portions of their profits to various Veteran organizations – began looking for a new way to help out.
“We started seeing stories on the news about the need for hand sanitizer and how distilleries like ours were working to fill that need,” said Hagedorn. “At the same time, we started receiving phone calls from people asking if this was something we could do and how they could help.”
Hagedorn said the effort quickly became a community effort. “We’re keeping our actual distilling operations to a few key people, but we’re receiving donations to help us out from all over.”
Making the hand sanitizer was one thing, Hadden said. “Finding a way to get it to the people that needed it was another. We didn’t know who to call.”
So, the group reached out to U.S. Representative Don Bacon to help. Bacon – a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general who is also friends with the two owners – put them in contact with the director of the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System in Omaha.
“Essentially, my job was to be the middle-man,“ said Bacon. “I helped connect the dots.”
The next day the Soldier Valley team delivered 100 gallons of newly made hand sanitizer to the VA hospital in Omaha. On each of the one-gallon jugs is a number 6, which the distillers said is particularly meaningful to them.
“In the military, the words ‘I’ve got your six’ means that you’re going to defend your buddy, no matter what…we’ve got your back,” said Hagedorn. “So, the number six has really become a meaningful part of our business.”
That’s part of the reason why the donation to the VA in Omaha is such a personal thing for Hagedorn. Shortly after retiring from the Nebraska Army National Guard in 2013 following a nearly 25-year Active Guard, Reserve (AGR) career, Hagedorn – an Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm Veteran – suddenly was confronted with a medical emergency.
“I ended up having a heart attack right after I left the military,” Hagedorn said. He said the treatment he received from Dr. Amy Arouni, chief of Cardiology for VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System, and her team of specialists left a lasting impression on him.
“The professionalism is second to none with the staff here,” Hagedorn said. “Because of what you did for me, I just wanted to give back.”
So, Hagedorn said that when it came time to look for organizations to donate to, he knew which organization needed to be at or near the top of the list.
“I said if we’re going to be donating anywhere, it has to be here,” said Hagedorn.
“We owe everything we have to our Veterans and this is a great way to give back to them and the people who are taking care of them,” he added. “It’s fun to give back to Veterans because we feel like we’re doing a lot of good. It’s a no-brainer… it’s just something that we all believe in.”
Hagedorn and Hadden added that they’re going to continue their effort for as a long as there’s a need.
“We will keep this going for as long as we can.”