WOKO morning DJ Wild Bill Sargent
The Clinton County Veterans’ Service Agency knows who to call when they need a hand: Wild Bill Sargent and WOKO 98.9-FM.
On Wednesday, Sept. 11, Sargent will be climbing the stairs to the top of the 135-foot Macdonough Monument in downtown Plattsburgh for an on-air fundraiser, along with his Morning Roundup radio show, to raise money for a new van for the Disabled American Veterans of Clinton and Essex Counties. He’s not coming down until his country music listeners donate enough money to buy the van.
For North Country veterans, the nearest Veterans Administration hospital is in Albany. The Veterans’ Service Agency provides transportation for vets, but their van is aging. The federal government dictates when these vans have to be taken out of service, but provides no funds to replace them.
“We average 12 trips a month, and we’re transporting in the neighborhood of between 80 and 90 veterans per month down to Albany,” said Steve Bowman, director of the Clinton County Veterans’ Service Agency. “We put a lot of miles on vehicles quickly.”
Enter Wild Bill.
Sargent first heard of the plight of the Veterans’ Service Agency in 2005 when they were holding a covered dish “dime a dip” fundraiser to replace the van they had at the time.
“I thought, ‘How the heck are they going to get a van a dime at a time?’” Sargent said. “I knew we could help them out and do this.”
So he locked himself inside the Macdonough Monument , and they made their goal by 2 p.m. Sargent again made the climb in 2009 to replace that van when it was taken out of service.
“Originally I was skeptical about it. Not the concept, but just ‘OK, can we raise this amount of money in a reasonable time,’” said WOKO Operations Manager Steve Pelkey. “What happens if you don’t raise the money? Now it’s nighttime, it’s cold and you’re up in the Macdonough Monument.”
Yet they were successful. People made the trip to the monument to hand the radio station staff their donations in person. They also took phone pledges. People from as far away as New Hampshire sent money.
Sargent thinks the fundraiser is even more special this time, coming on the anniversary of both the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration. The Battle of Plattsburgh took place on Sept. 11, 1814 during the War of 1812. The Macdonough Monument — completed in 1926 — is named after Commodore Thomas Macdonough, who led American forces in a decisive victory during the Battle of Plattsburgh.
Sargent is also glad that the temperature won’t be minus three degrees, like it was the first year.
“It’s a pretty simple thing for people to conceptualize,” Pelkey said. “These are folks who have served our country. They have in many cases been injured or have health issues because of that service, and they’ve been promised health care. Quite simply, we owe it to them to get them that health care.”
WOKO will set up for the broadcast on Monday, Sept. 9. At 6 a.m. Sept. 11, Sargent will head into the monument to start his broadcast. The time he comes down is up to the people of the North Country.
Sargent’s Morning Roundup co-host Rod Hill will be at the base of the monument helping collect donations.
The DAV’s old van will be donated to Homeward Bound Adirondacks, a program that helps veterans and their families integrate back into society. Homeward Bound is not restricted by the federal guidelines regarding when to take a vehicle out of service.
WOKO will be taking phone pledges starting at 6 a.m., Sept. 11, at (800) 554-9890, and (800) 354-9890.