My name is Andy Van Handel (some know me as Bad Andy). Back in February 2020, VS4L founder, Jim Osterman, asked me to join him on this amazing journey, and join VS4L as a member of the Board of Directors. Without hesitation, I accepted. Here is some of my background...
I grew up in Neenah, WI. In my junior year in High School, I joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard and served from 1995-2001 (all peace time). In November of 1999, I made my very first skydive in Omro, WI at Skydive Adventure. A number of years later, in 2014, while jumping at Green Bay Skydivers, I met a student skydiver, a lady named Charity. She told me this heartbreaking story of losing her Army Airborne Veteran fiance to PTSD suicide. She started skydiving at first to honor him, only to realize that it was therapy for her. We started talking about how we could help other struggling vets through the therapy of skydiving. She hooked up with a group called 4th H.O.O.A.H. (Helping Out Our American Heroes), and we created the first (now Annual) Freedom Freefall event to help our heroes.
In 2015, we were able to get 9 Veterans, from 6 wars - yes 6 - (WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan), in the sky, all in one day. These first and second Freedom Freefall events were held at Omro, WI.
When the owners of the drop zone in Omro retired, I became a club member at Seven Hills Skydivers, just North of Madison, WI. We brought Freedom Freefall there, where we hold it in June, with a bigger aircraft, helping even more heroes take to the skies and save them from taking theirs. It was somewhere around this time I reached out to Jim, to have him join us at Freedom Freefall.
Since meeting Charity, it has truly opened my eyes up to help our heroes with the battle at home. With 3300 plus skydives and 20 years in the sport, helping our Veterans through skydiving has become my drive and passion. And I have participated and helped 4th HOOAH with some other events. I have also been a guardian on Old Glory Honor Flight.
Soooo... When Jim asked me to join the team at VS4L, it was a no brainer.
VS4L: Saving Veterans Lives, 1 mile (or skydive) at a time