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Veteran Spotlight: Marine Corps veteran serves fellow vets long after the transition

Tomorrow, May 1, begins National Military Appreciation Month–a time designated by Congress for all citizens to recognize, honor and show appreciation for those who have served in our nation’s military. With this in mind, we wanted our next Spotlight edition to feature a veteran who embodies what Military Appreciation Month is all about–giving thanks by giving back to veterans in need.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Art Harris was a natural choice. Harris, the founder and owner of Essential Auto Service in Whitehall, Ohio, has collaborated with MVRC many times to help our veteran clients. Whether the need was a car repair or an auto repair estimate, Harris has always worked out a fair deal and provided quality service to the veteran.

“Just like MVRC, Art is interested in doing what’s best for the vet,” said MVRC Director of Operations Tim Taylor.

Taylor first sought out Harris’s help in 2013 when MVRC began receiving requests for transportation assistance. At the time, the organization had just expanded its service model from providing career services to taking a more holistic approach to veterans’ services. This included providing bus passes and gas cards to vets so they could get to work, and then we started seeing vets who needed help paying for car repairs.

Taylor, also a Marine Corps veteran, knew Harris through their connection to the Marines, and called Harris to discover how much he would charge for the repairs. Harris offered up reasonable rates and has since partnered with MVRC.

“Art charges a fair price and he is respectful of the veteran,” said Taylor. “If the vet can help MVRC pay for part of the repair cost, Art can even work out a payment plan with the vet, which a lot of places won’t do,” said Taylor.

“I try to help veterans in any way I can,” said Harris. “Anything for a vet.”

Harris, who served four years in the Marine Corps—including a 13 month tour of Vietnam as a grenadier—has always felt a strong connection to the veteran community.

“Most of my friends are veterans and I’ve been a lifetime member of the VFW since 1991” he said.

According to Harris, his commitment to helping vets has followed him throughout his civilian career as well. Since he established Essential Auto Service 25 years ago, and even since he got his start working in the hobby shops at the bases he was stationed 45 years ago, Harris has provided the services for his veteran customers that he now provides for MVRC’s clients.

“For our veterans, it’s more than just a car repair,” said Taylor. “Harris is helping MVRC break down a barrier to employment that many veterans face.”

In one case last April, a veteran came to MVRC because he lost his job when his car broke down. Without a working vehicle and no bus line option at the time of his third shift job, he didn’t have a way to get to work. However, the veteran’s boss promised he could have his job back if he found reliable transportation. Harris fixed the car and MVRC helped pay for the repair, giving the veteran the opportunity to re-apply for his job.

Throughout 2014, MVRC partnered with Harris to help four other veterans in similar situations. For us at MVRC, we are grateful to know that when veterans in need come to our centers, we can work with another veteran like Harris to help turn their situation around.

“If I got it and they need it, I’ll help them,” said Harris. “Veterans deserve it.”