Lewandowski to assist vets after Naden retirement

After five years of assisting the veterans of Webster County, Russ Naden’s last official day on the job as the county’s director of Veterans Affairs is today.

“It has been a good five years,” said Naden, who began his tenure as director in January 2008.

Naden, a military veteran himself, served in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War and ran his own business in Webster City before retiring.

Not long into retirement, Naden discovered that he may not have been ready to leave the work force completely.

“I decided I just wasn’t ready to be fully retired,” he said. “This time I think I am ready for it.”

When the position opened with Veterans Affairs, Naden thought he would give it a try.

“‘I thought helping veterans part time was a good idea,” he said.

Over the past five years, Naden has assisted around 1,200 of Webster County’s 3,000 veterans.

“It’s always good when you can help a veteran or their spouse get the assistance or compensation they need,” he said. “It just makes you feel good knowing a simple thing like that can make such a big difference in their lives.”

One highlight of the job for Naden has been being a member of the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight Committee. Naden helped hundreds of area World War II veterans travel to Washington, D.C., on five flights in 2010 and 2011. He plans to continue his involvement with the Honor Flights as a flight for Korean War veterans is planned for this spring.

“That has been an outstanding program,” he said. “I think I have enjoyed the experience of the flights as much as the World War II veterans have.”

Naden said he will miss the many veterans who come into the office every day.

“I know I’ll miss talking with veterans the most,” he said. “They’re just nice to talk to. They have so many different stories and I am going to miss that.”

Before he could transition out of the office completely, Naden assisted Daniel Lewandowski, the newly hired director, learn the roles of the job.

Lewandowski began his job Feb. 20. He is a 32-year veteran of the United States Army who spent 11 years with the 875th Replacement Company out of Fort Dodge until his retirement from military service Jan. 1, 2012. During his service, Lewandowski served deployments to Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Benning, Ga., where his unit assisted troops preparing to go overseas.

“I wouldn’t call it a glamorous career, but the Army put me where I was needed,” he said.

Lewandowski described his position in the Army as the equivalent of a human resource director, which he believes will help him in his new position.

“This job really did sound like a great job,” he said. “My wife and I prayed about it because I really wanted this job. I knew I wanted to help veterans.”

Lewandowski is eager to get to know the veterans and tackle the challenges of the job.

“I’m looking forward to knowing that the help you give to someone could make their day, that it could change their life,” he said. “I’m looking forward to serving in this position. I know there were many qualified applicants and I am both thrilled and humbled to have been selected.”