America Strong: Local man shares passion for military history, equipment and those who served

Ivan Urnovitz and his friends

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – We want you to meet Ivan Urnovitz. His love for military history, the equipment and the people who served made him “America Strong”.

Some might call it a passion or maybe an obsession.

“We call it ‘OD fever’ – dull olive. And once you’re bitten, boy, I don’t think there’s a cure, ”Urnovitz said.

He talks about this unique color of green. The green you find on old military jeeps.

Urnovitz has several old military trucks that he restored. His wife actually bought him his first in 1994. And he’s been hooked ever since.

But, his infatuation with the military began in the 1950s, when he was younger and many older men around him had just returned from World War II.

“Now I have never been in the military. People are surprised to hear this, ”said Urnovitz.

He was drafted in 1971 but failed physically. He is now retired and with more free time he has made a career out of helping veterans and the groups that serve them. He is involved with more than six veterans groups in the Spokane area, including the Navy League and the Marine Corps League.

“People were asking me and I kept saying ‘yes’,” said Urnovitz.

Urnovitz and several other guys with “OD fever” are in what they call the Spokane Motor Pool. They take their restored military vehicles to events to show them off, but also to keep history alive.

“Veterans is his heart and soul. Even if he is not. You would never know, ”said Navy veteran Nate Thompson.

Thompson also has OD fever. Much like Urnovitz, it’s not just about Army Green Jeeps or Air Force Blue Dodges. It’s about connecting with the veterans who drove them, got on board, fought and died in them.

“They were just tools and the real stories were what people went through,” said Urnovitz.

When Urnovitz, Thompson, and their friends take their trucks to events, people stop to take photos, climb into the driver’s seats, and marvel at the story that comes to life.

Veterans are also taking note. They stop and tell stories about the time they served. Urnovitz says, for many of them, it’s cathartic.

“They went through hell. Excuse me, but they have a lot of these guys, ”said Thompson.

Urnovitz plans to continue volunteering for as long as he can. If you see his blue Dodge in town, smile, wave, and know he’s there to help those who have served us.

“With a little help from my friends, we’ll continue to try to honor people,” Urnovitz said.

Throughout this pandemic, we have seen resilience in our communities. 4 News Now is partnering with ABC News with an ongoing series called “America Strong,” to spotlight those people who do good to help others.

Do you know someone who embodies “America Strong?” Tell us about them here.

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