VANCOUVER, Wash. – A growing local amateur radio station for blind and disabled veterans began broadcasting daily from 6 a.m. to noon in December.
VetNet was added to Northwest Audio Information Service and Community Growth Radio on December 12, and is operated from its creator’s apartment in Orchards. There is no external money to support the station, just an internal passion to keep it alive.
Gerald Gaul is a one-man operation. It has three tables that function as a large wrap-around desk, which has the right surface area to hold all of its equipment and various books, papers, and CDs. Many cords snake all over the room, and all electrical outlets are full.
Gaul started the VetNet radio station because he saw an unmet need for blind, visually impaired, and disabled veterans in southwest Washington and northern Oregon. It serves as an accessible source of entertainment and information for veterinarians, Gaul said, as it pulls programs from other stations that may be of benefit to listeners.
He was inspired by his brother who served in the Vietnam War, as well as other servicemen.
“It’s for them. That’s how it started, “he said.” It’s just one breath after another. “
The network also has musical elements that provide a sense of nostalgia to its listeners. Gaul incorporated tunes on his station that aired on Armed Forces Radio from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s during the Vietnam War. Listeners will also hear from veterans who will share their journeys around the world after their service, such as fixing their sanity or starting their own businesses.
In the future, Gaul hopes to include resources from local veterans organizations to expand its reach.
The network costs around $ 300 to cover Internet and electricity use, which Gaul supports by using part of his disability checks. Retirement is an option, he said, but the resort is a labor of love he’s willing to invest in.
“It’s not a question of numbers or how many people are listening,” he said. “I get satisfaction if I make someone’s day. “
No stranger to the world of radio
Gaul has worked in local commercial radio stations throughout his career and has been an amateur radio operator for 20 years.
Bob Ancheta, who was Gaul’s boss at Vancouver’s KAR station during its operation in the 1990s, said he was a natural radio operator and host who “lives and breathes” radio. Gaul, who is self-taught, ran the control panel when there was special programming that didn’t require a disc jockey, he said. Finally, Gaul made his way to the air.
After Ancheta and Gaul ceased working at the station, they stayed in touch and remained in the flourishing radio business, albeit slowly declining. Gaul’s persistence in reaching more listeners through his projects – along with his consistently full workload – impressed Ancheta.
“He feels for others,” Ancheta said. “He’s just a compassionate guy all around.”