MEET THE MEN BEHIND THE VETERANS’ PRESS

November 11, 2019 at 5:00 am | By CRAIG NORTHRUP Staff Writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This newspaper is different.


As Don Walker and Bryan Bledsoe sit behind the table, a copy of their publication laid out in front of them, the
material itself is just your standard issue newsprint, roughly the same kind you’d find in any daily edition at
any newsstand. But while copies of The Press and New York Times are often read and quickly discarded
without a second thought, this particular newspaper — The Veterans’ Press stretched across its front page —
Walker and Bledsoe treat with extra care.
CRAIG NORTHRUP/Press Army veterans Don Walker, left, and Bryan Bledsoe. The two locals
have dedicated themselves to informing veterans of available services in the area, along with
telling the stories of those who served, in their publication The Veterans’ Press.

“I was at a [Washington State University] football game,” Walker recalled. “It was Dad’s Day, and they were
honoring the father of a woman, and the PA announcer was talking about his service and all the things he’s
done for his family. And then the announcer said, ‘On top of everything else, the daughter was going to school
on his G.I. Bill.’
“I said to myself, ‘Is that possible?’”
After a little research, the Army veteran who spent three years serving in Alaska discovered that, after the
attacks of Sept. 11, veterans could transfer their education benefit to spouses or children under certain
circumstances.
“That led me to ask a whole series of questions,” Walker said. “What else don’t I know about? What other
benefits are out there? What other things are going on for veterans? Then Bryan and I got talking about how
else we could help.”
What began as a ‘Did You Know?’ idea in the Spokesman-Review has ballooned into a monthly newspaper in
The Press dedicated to informing veterans of services they earned while serving their country, sharing stories
and providing resource material to help those who served.
“We always had the idea that if we presented this idea to the newspapers, it would be a win-win,” said Bledsoe,
who served as a helicopter door gunner for the 25th Infantry Division, ¾ Cavalry during the Vietnam War. “This
could be information that gets advertising around it. From our standpoint, we could get the message out to
veterans.”
That message’s key tenet deals with services that veterans might be owed but don’t know about, services
Inland Northwest residents might have unusually greater access to.
“We’re very lucky here,” Walker said. “One of the best resources we have is the regional Kootenai County office
that combines county services with the Idaho Department of Veteran Affairs in Post Falls. They have a couple
of the best VSOs that we know of, and they really do a great job — a terrific job — out there.”
Bledsoe added that other local veteran organizations like the VFW and the American Legion are supportive
and informative avenues for veterans to discover. What began as The Veterans’ Press information campaign
has since evolved into a monthly news outlet to share experiences only other veterans can truly understand:
the stories of lives in service as well as lives returning from service.
“One of my favorite stories,” Walker said with a smile, “is about Sean [Halstead] from Rathdrum. Here’s a guy
who served his country in the Air Force, came back and ended up losing [the use of] his legs. But he didn’t quit,
and he ends up a three-time Paralympian …
“What’s spectacular is how he’s turned his physical condition into such a positive approach, where he stands
up and shows up. He sets a great example. And when you look at our website, you see all sorts of stories
about veterans.”
“So many veterans around have their own stories,” Bledsoe added. “It’s a real pleasure to work with them and

tell them.”
“If we feel there’s somebody offering special services or something like that, we’ll write an article about them
or get them to write it,” Walker said. “We’re not so much reporters. We’ll ask them to write their stories, and
then we’ll touch them up.”
Whatever you call them, the two area residents continue to demonstrate their commitment to local veterans
as they expanded The Veterans’ Press to new media.
“This is what we’re doing now,” Walker explained. “We’ve got a couple of special editions for Memorial Day and
Veterans Day for the Spokesman-Review. We’ve got the Veterans’ Chronicle and the Veterans’ Press. We’ve got
our veteranshelpnet.com website, which has all our stories and all our Did You Knows on it, and it has a help
page, too. And then we have our Facebook page, which we’ve found gets the information out there very
effectively.”
The two are also exploring with local radio and television stations for regular features, as well as potential
telethons. They’re also looking at podcasts.
“We’ll look at every medium we can think of,” Walker said. “We understand not everybody reads the
newspaper, but maybe a family member says, ‘That sounds like Charlie.’ ‘That sounds like Jim.’ ‘That sounds
like my son.’ Then they can take the message to them. Maybe [the veterans] will then reach out to our site and
see where they can get help.”
Once the two veterans finished their interview at The Press, they gathered their stray documents and stuffed
them in their briefcases. Bledsoe stood and pinched the corners of The Veterans’ Press and folded it gently in
half, then again in quarters before handing it over a little more carefully than your average publication.
Neither man ever said it was anything more than a newspaper, but to them and many other readers, clearly, it
was.