Volunteers help military artist rebuild

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 10:21 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Veterans are pounding nails, and putting in volunteer hours to help Ken Hegwood, who is a Nebraska man with a unique niche.

“When I heard about Ken, I was in the military,” retired military veteran Frederic Drummond said. “I just thought it was interesting that in Hansen, Nebraska-- population 300 people-- that there was this individual that paints World War I and World War II helmets.”

Ken started collecting helmets as far back as 1939. “A lot of them are the World War I U.S. doughboys,” Hegwood said. “Then the U.S. M-1 helmets, that’s World War II helmets up to Korea and Vietnam, before they changed over to Kevlar. And the other ones are the 1916 to 1918 German World War I helmets.”

But a fire burned his shop to the ground at the end of June, and a large portion of his memorabilia was lost. For Ken’s military friends, it was a call to action.

“When I flew in about two weeks after it happened, I noticed the building was completely demolished,” Drummond said. I ran into a high school friend, Steve Gerritsen, who I hadn’t seen in 40 years, who also had a young age connection with Ken."

Frederic Drummond, Steve Gerristen, and many others teamed up to rebuild Hegwood’s shop. Businesses like Moose Roofing and Industrial Irrigation got involved. Home Depot made a huge donation of building materials. As you can imagine, this is all about volunteers coming together. Many of the volunteers have a military background, and they are very interested in making sure that Ken gets back on his feet again, and starts painting again.

“Right behind me we are building a 30 X 40 structure to replace what Ken had there,” Drummond said. “We are going to epoxy the floor, we are going to bring in some fire alarms, and build some overhead doors.” Even Purple Heart winner Colonel Tom Brewer, who is now a Nebraska state senator, is involved in the project. He says, Ken Hegwood is world famous. “He not only collects military items, but he is also someone who either remodels something, or remakes it so it’s usable,” Brewer said. “I just think this is a great story. Here is a man who lost his world when the fire burned up all that he had. He was able to save some of it, but there’s a lot that was gone. But he kept his spirit, he kept his passion, and this building will give him a chance to take some of the stuff that was damaged, refurbish it, and continue to pass that history on to folks.”

Ken is thankful for the support. “I’m amazed and flabergasted, I didn’t realize there were that many people that wanted to help me,” Hegwood said. It goes to show, that while the future may seem uncertain, people still want to help one another. “There’s a lot of stuff going on in America right now,” Drummond said. “We’ve got COVID going on, we’ve got the election going on. This is one thing that I think all Americans can look at and say, it is good for our country.”

It’s veterans helping veterans, so Ken Hegwood can share his knowledge and passion with others, and perhaps inspire a new generation out of a new building.

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