Tag Archives: veteran bus riders

Richard Curtis, Vietnam Vet & Omnitrans Rider

We caught up with Richard Curtis at a bus stop in front of the VA hospital in Loma Linda. He is an Omnitrans regular on Route 2. He rides the bus to his appointments at the Loma Linda VA hospital where he also volunteers as a 2nd Floor Concierge four days a week.

The tall quiet vet talked to us about the three tours he served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam where he was shot down three times. “I was a prisoner of war for about nine months in Cambodia, before I managed to escape. The guys that held us used drugs, and while they were high I managed to gain their confidence. I listened to them talk and learned how to speak Vietnamese. They wanted to just sit out the war and not have any problems. Basically if we didn’t give them problems, they wouldn’t give us any. I guess you could say I caught them slipping and took that opportunity to escape.

There were five of us, but we had to split up when they started looking for us. Three of us walked for three days until we were picked up by the Marines. The other two are still missing in action. Afterwards I was in bad shape. I was suffering from malaria and dysentery. I weighed like 119 pounds. I spent about 4 months in recuperation then flew back to Vietnam.”

“I come to the VA now because have problems with my vision. During the war, a rocket exploded in front of my chopper and it almost popped my eyes out. I was bleeding out my eyes and my nose. But the VA Hospital here gives outstanding care, and I come here often.”

Richard paused for a moment, nodding at a couple of the vets who were disembarking from the bus, then continued.

“To tell you the truth, I’d rather ride Omnitrans than ride a car. I really would. The drivers are always courteous and friendly on this route. There’s two buses that run the route back-to-back so it’s pretty efficient and I can always make my appointments on time. Sometimes I read, sometimes I shoot the bull with the other vets that are on the bus. I like Omnitrans.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Levi Lane, Navy Vet & Omnitrans Rider

Levi Lane served in the Navy on the USS Kitty Hawk as a Culinary Specialist. He’s been an Omnitrans rider for more than a year, and rides the Route 2 to the Veteran’s Center in Loma Linda five days a week, where he attends self-help group meetings. “I’d prefer to drive,” he said frankly, “but I can’t right now. So I bike or take Omnitrans wherever I have to go. It’s good to have the bus to fall back on whenever you need it.”

Levis is looking forward to the new sbX BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) service which is scheduled to begin in early 2014. It will cut his travel time in half, and he believes it will help eliminate bus overcrowding for those traveling the regular fixed route as well. As a cyclist, he’s also excited that the new sbX BRT line has interior bike racks which will make it more convenient to board and disembark. “I can’t wait!” he laughs.

When we spoke to him at the bus stop, Levi talked about how proud he was of his service as a vet, and the opportunity it gave him to help others. It’s a legacy he continues to pay forward today. “Several years ago, I suffered from depression and went to get help,” he said. “I saw there was a big need for people who could offer support, so I stuck around and began volunteering as resource counselor for adults suffering from mental illness and addiction. Helping others actually helped my own depression.”

Bob Sudal, former Mental Health Clinic Supervisor for San Bernardino County, believed in Levi and helped make it possible for him to continue his work. “Bob passed away a few months ago,” said Levi emotionally. “I really miss him. He believed in me. He sent me to school for free to get certified as a family and peer advocate. He helped others too—I wasn’t the only one.”

In 2007, Levi was awarded Honorable Mention for his work as a family and peer advocate by the County of San Bernardino. He is proud to have made a difference in the lives of so many people.

– Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org