Tag Archives: Jeremiah Montell

Unsung Hero #23

We don’t often think of Westport as a vocal, support-our-troops town.

Westporters are as patriotic as any Americans. We’ve got our share of veterans. But very few served after 9/11. The difficult, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from most of our minds.

Yet with tremendous energy, incredible organizing skills, plenty of passion — and the leadership qualities of the best generals in history — Adam Vengrow has put Westport on the military map.

He’s the driving force behind our great relationship with Catch a Lift. The national organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support to post-9/11 combat-wounded military personnel, aiding in their physical and mental recovery.

It’s an amazing group, accomplishing tremendous things. But Westport holds a special place in Catch a Lift’s heart.

Once a year, veterans come to town for a “fitness and knowledge boot camp”: strength and conditioning, yoga, spinning and more. Businesses like JoyrideCrossfit and Achieve that usually compete for customers join hands to help.

Also once a year — on Veterans Day — Adam organizes a fundraiser for Catch a Lift.

Last Saturday’s event was phenomenal. Birchwood Country Club was packed. A great cross-section of Westporters — veterans and those who never served; old and young; Republicans, Democrats and everyone else — joined together to help Catch a Lift.

Adam Vengrow (right) and Jeremiah Montell — a Marine and Navy veteran of Iran and Afghanistan — at Saturday’s Catch a Lift fundraiser.

The food and conversation were great. The silent auction was high-end. The video brought tears to all.

But the highlight of the evening was the veterans themselves. These young men and women talked about losing limbs, coming home to homelessness, battling obstacles from PTSD to losing custody of their child.

Yet they spoke too of triumphs: losing 100 pounds; entering and graduating from college; healing themselves, helping others — and regaining custody of that child.

Marine veteran Sarah Rudder lost her foot in an accident. Her story of fortitude inspired the packed crowd at Birchwood Country Club.

The fundraiser is just a part of their weekend in Westport. Earlier in the day, the Police Department hosted them for an intense workout. The day before, they’d talked to Staples athletes.

When they spoke so eloquently and passionately at Birchwood, the veterans made clear how much Westport meant to them. It was equally clear how much they meant to those of us in the audience.

Adam does not do this alone. He’s got a high-powered day job, and gets plenty of help from Andy Berman and batallions of other volunteers. (One woman called herself “part of Adam’s Army.”) He thanked them all on Saturday.

But the Westport/Catch a Lift connection would not be possible without Adam Vengrow. He shares something special with the brave men and women he brought to Birchwood on Saturday: He too is an Unsung Hero.

(If you know an Unsung Hero who should be recognized, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Jeremiah Montell Catches A Westport Lift

Three years ago, Jeremiah Montell weighed 320 pounds. He took 15 different medications. He made 3 suicide attempts.

Montell had recently retired as a Navy petty officer 2nd class, due to injuries sustained in combat. He’d deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq — after serving in both places earlier, as a Marine.

Fortunately, he learned about Catch a Lift. The organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support to post 9/11 combat-wounded military personnel, aiding in their physical and mental recovery.

Montell joined a gym in Austin, Texas. He recovered so well that he got himself certified as a personal trainer — so he could help others.

When Catch a Lift officials asked him to share his story, he became a public speaker. Now he too is a board member.

Jeremiah Montell working out in one activity …

That’s just the bare outline of Montell’s amazing story. On Saturday, November 11 (7 to 11 p.m., Birchwood Country Club) he’ll share it with Westport.

The 3rd annual event promises to be the best one yet. It’s a chance to meet inspiring veterans, eat, drink and dance.

This will be Montell’s 3rd visit here. Westport has a special place in his heart. It was one of the first places he spoke. And his reception here has been uplifting.

“I’ve gotten so much from so many people there — professionals in the fitness industry, and private citizens,” he says.

“They turn out. They want to hear our stories. And they want to  help.”

Montell calls Westport “a beautiful town. But it’s a town of real people. I know they’re busy. But they take time to come, and ask thoughtful questions. They really understand we’re going through physical and mental things. They want to be a part of my life. I’m really fortunate to have that little town on my side.”

… and another.

2016 was a milestone year for Catch a Lift. The organization raised $1 million — of which 91% goes to help veterans.

“These great men and women need our support,” says Westporter Adam Vengrow, a national board member who is instrumental in every local event.

“We’re fighting suicide, PTSD, alcohol and drug abuse, severe weight gain, physical injuries including multiple limb losses and severe burns, plus much more. Together, we make a difference right here.”

Local businesses, gyms, the Westport Police Department, first responders, VFW and many others continue to help. But over 500 veterans are on Catch a Lift’s wait list.

In addition to ticket sales for the Veterans Day event, Vengrow seeks auction donations and program ads. Click here for more information.

“Twice a year, we bring veterans from all over the country to Westport,” he notes.

“We open our doors, we thank them for their service, we offer a hug. They leave with a lasting thought that Westport is unlike any other place in the country.

In the middle of town, he adds, “our bridge is filled with American flags. There are peaceful protesters from left and right at various times there. But everyone comes together in patriotism, and support for the men and women who protect us, in the hope of an even brighter future for our country and the generations behind us. I love Westport!”

In fact, Adam Vengrow loves Westport almost as much as Jeremiah Montell.