A Purple Heart Veteran went from broken heart to grateful heart thanks to the generous hearts of businesses and individuals from our readership’s hometowns. The Veteran’s dream of securing an outdoor, covered space at his home was realized this past week after he was initally swindled out of a deposit he made to a local contractor who walked away with the cash.
Ron Jenderseck, 75, is a life-long St. Cloud homeowner who served in Vietnam in 1968-69. Jenderseck was 19 years old at the time he was drafted and while on patrol, he was hit twice by gunfire that left him critically injured. The first shot caromed off his bandoleer - a pocketed belt draped over the shoulders for holding either individual cartridges or belts of ammunition.
Jenderseck wasn’t so lucky with the second gun shot. It hit him square in the chest.
“I saw two flashes and then I felt myself floating to the ground,” Jenderseck said.
Jenderseck, an Army sergeant, could only think of his beloved from back home, Geraldine, who he lovingly called “Punky.”
It took a while for a chopper to swoop in and collect Jenderseck while he fought for his life on the fields of Vietnam. As the war continued to swirl around his damaged body, the rescue team struggled to find a spot where they could safely extricate Jenderseck from the action.
It took five to six months of rehabilitation but Jenderseck survived the gunshot to the chest as the bullet narrowly missed his heart and exited through his shoulder. Two days after the shooting, Jenderseck was presented the Purple Heart for his injuries during war.
Ron met Punky while attending High School and the two eventually married and had two daughters (Sara and Nicole). Ron was a senior in high school and Punky was a sophomore when they ran into each other at a bowling alley and got married a year later in 1970.
Punky, a daycare provider for many years, died in July of 2020, leaving Ron in the home they shared for many, many years.
Ron decided recently he wanted a covered patio built onto the back part of his home so he could spend more time outdoors during the warm Minnesota months and have more room for when family came to visit. He contacted a contractor out of the Little Falls area to complete the project for him.
“He came, made some measurements, staked things out then after payment, he disappeared,” said Jenderseck. “After I gave him $12,000 to start the project, he stopped communicating and when he did, he made up all kinds of excuses.”
Jenderseck, heartbroken that someone would swindle someone out of their own hard-earned money, eventually filed papers in civil court to try and bring this individual to justice.
In the meantime, Jenderseck still wanted his covered porch so he took to Angi (Angie’s List) to try and find a more reputable contractor — knowing the project he initially wanted was now going to be twice as costly due to the situation.
Ari Erickson of Landson Construction was the one Jenderseck contacted and after a brief telling of what happened in a meeting with Erickson, Ari was moved to “right this wrong.”
“I was raised to show compassion for others,” said Ari. “I can’t see people getting screwed without intervening.”
Erickson’s grandfather is a Vietnam veteran, so Ari has a strong respect for military Veterans.
“After hearing that this happened to a Purple-Heart awarded Veteran, I couldn’t let it go,” he continued. “I couldn’t comprehend how someone would show so much dishonor and disrespect to someone that deserves nothing but honor and respect. In my mind people like Ron should live a life of comfort and not fight to exist. It weighed on me heavily, so I knew I needed to do something.”
Ari is partnered with Shane Mekeland as part of the business, Landson Construction. Mekeland is a State Representative for District 27A. After meeting with Jenderseck, Erickson immediately contacted his partner in business with a quest.
“I told him (Shane) that we have to do anything we can to help Ron out,’ said Erickson.
Mekeland agreed and started making a few phone calls to people he knew who could help this Vietnam Veteran out.
“I didn’t know where this would all go, but after a few calls, I was inundated with groups of people who wanted to help this man and the situation he was in,” said Mekeland.
Before he and Ari knew it, dozens of contractors, builders, roofers, lumber providers and patio installers were offering their services and supplies.
All for free.
Jenderseck said a few days later after talking to Landson, he answered his door to “four big guys” ready to get the project underway.
Senator Jeff Howe, a Republican representing communities in Benton and Stearns counties (District 13) also heard of the project and decided he wanted to help. Howe, a Veteran of the U.S. Navy and is the owner and President of a building inspections business, became the contact with the City of St. Cloud to arrange for proper permits and inspections. He also lent his hands physically when the crew commenced the project last week.
The companies who chipped in crews, supplies, materials and even food were: A1 Concrete (Clear Lake), The Chuba Company (Clear Lake), Country Lumber (Becker), Structural Buildings (Becker), T&J Construction (Rogers), Landson Construction (Elk River), McDonald’s Meats (Clear Lake), The Palmer House (Palmer Twp.)
It’s because of companies and individuals like theses that an entire community can come together to gift their time, their talents and their paychecks to those in need.
It warmed the purple heart of Ron Jenderseck.