By Ken de la Bastide
For those serving or having served in the U.S. military, the phrase “I’ve got your 6” means there is someone watching your back. In Kokomo, Richard Balser is making that phrase a reality for a fellow Vietnam veteran.
The 62-year-old Marine Vietnam veteran is remodeling the Judson Road home of Army veteran Ken Magnett. And he’s not charging him a dime.
They didn’t serve together in Vietnam: Balser was there in 1969 and Magnett didn’t come until 1970 and 1971.
They got to know each other through their work with the Howard County Vietnam Veterans Organization for more than a decade.
Magnett has owned the house on Judson Road since 1975 and decided to move back there from a house he owns in Indian Heights.
“I talked to him about what I wanted to do,” said Magnett, who is disabled. “He offered to come over and look at it.”
Since there was no deadline to finish the remodeling, Balser said he would do the work for Magnett.
“He won’t accept any money,” Magnett said. “I have given him some money for gas and food.”
The cost estimate of the remodeling was between $8,000 and $12,000, with Magnett purchasing all of the materials. Balser is replacing all of the plumbing, placing sheet-rock on the walls and ceilings, installing new flooring and applying a fresh coat of paint.
“It will be like a new home inside,” he said.
Balser said he is returning the favors Magnett has done for others.
“This is my way of paying Kenny back,” he said of the work. “I’ve been in the building trades all my life. I’m doing it to help another veteran.”
He’s been on the job for two months.
“Ken has done a lot for wounded veterans,” Balser said. “He has done a lot for the organization over the years.”
Magnett is one of the founding members of the Howard County Vietnam Veterans Organization and is also active with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Balser said Magnett allowed him to design the interior and some approved changes like expanding closets and replacing the doors and windows.
A retired carpenter, Balser underwent heart bypass surgery earlier this year.
“I like to stay busy,” he said. “I maintain the house of a Tipton school teacher and do work for other veterans.”
Magnett said he hopes to be living in the Judson Road home sometime this summer and is looking forward to returning to the house he shared with his wife before she died.