JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — If there are two things Art Geahr knows well, they are working with cars and serving others. And often times, the two go hand in hand.
A former Marine, Geahr spent a lot of time on base in the body shop helping his fellow Marines fix up their cars.
"I didn't charge them," he said. "It was, 'Hey, we're all Marines. I want to help you out if I can.'"
Now the owner of Jeffersonville Auto Repair and Geahr Offroad, Geahr wants to continue helping his fellow veterans the best way he knows how — cars.
"To give some of the knowledge I have about working on cars, working on Jeeps, to give that back to a veteran to me is priceless," he said.
Geahr has teamed up with Veteran's Club, a local nonprofit helping veterans who live with PTSD and other challenges, to teach veterans auto mechanic skills as they build a Jeep.
"Veterans like to get dirty," said Jeremy Harrell, Veteran's Club founder. "They like to be hands on. They like to really get in the action. They don't like to be spectators."
Harrell said Veteran's Club already has a Jeep off-roading adventure program, but many of the veterans he worked with expressed an interest in learning more about Jeeps, which led to this program's conception.
Veteran's Club has already received a donated 1997 Jeep, which will be stripped down. The veterans participating in the program will then work together to build the Jeep back up, which he said will be a therapeutic process for many of them.
"It's very subtle, so it doesn't feel like therapy, but in reality it will be," he said. "They get to disconnect from reality, from COVID-19, and life, and PTSD and all of the things that we deal with. And that's what we're trying to accomplish. That's the main goal."
According to Harrell, the pandemic has been especially tough for veterans dealing with PTSD because the physical isolation has made it harder for them to stay connected with other veterans and support systems. He said this program, which will implement safety measures to protect against the coronavirus, will help create those relationships and supports for veterans in need.
"They need us now more than ever and so we have to get creative and innovative on what we come up with in order to continue to serve," Harrell said.
Harrell and Geahr said they hope the program will also teach the veterans skills they can use, whether it is to have a better understanding of how to service their own personal vehicles or to give them a new career opportunity.
"The automotive world has been very, very good to me. I would love to see somebody else establish a career," Geahr said. "If it started here, that would be awesome."
Harrell said after the Jeep is rebuilt, it will be wrapped and unveiled in a public ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of the veterans.
"I hope that you can feel that internally that you may have been broken but through this and the camaraderie and relationships that are formed, you feel like you've accomplished something, you feel more put together," he said.
For Geahr, this program helps him come full circle to his younger days as a Marine.
"We're all veterans now so to give back that, it kind of reminds me of those days, helping my fellow Marines get a valve cover gasket on or some spark plugs in," he said. "It all comes back to that."
Harrell said there is no scheduled start date for this program but he anticipates it will begin in the next few weeks.