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

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

Some might call it a passion or maybe an obsession.

“We call it ‘O.D. fever’– Olive drab. And once you’re bit, boy, I don’t think there’s a cure,” Urnovitz said.

He is talking about that unique color of green. The green you find on old military jeeps.

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

But, his infatuation with the military started in the ’50s, when he was younger and a lot of older men around him had just come back from World War II.

“Now, I was never in the military. People are surprised to hear that,” said Urnovitz.

He was drafted in 1971 but failed the physical. He’s now retired and with extra time on his hands, has made a career out of helping veterans and the groups that serve them. He is involved with more than six veteran groups in the Spokane area, including the Navy League and the Marine Corps League.

“People would ask me and I would just keep saying, ‘yes,'” Urnovitz said.

Urnovitz and several other guys with “O.D. fever” are part of 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, that is his heart and soul. Even though he is not one. You’d never know it,” said Navy veteran Nate Thompson.

Thompson also has O.D. fever. Just like Urnovitz, it is not just about green Jeeps from the Army or the blue Dodges from the Air Force. It is about the connection to the veterans who drove them, rode in them, fought and died in them.

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

When Urnovitz, Thompson and their friends take their trucks to events, people stop to take pictures, climb into the driver’s seats and marvel at history come alive.

Veterans also take note. They stop by and tell stories of the time they served. Urnovitz says, for many of them, it is cathartic.

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

Urnovitz plans to keep volunteering for as long as he can. If you see his blue Dodge around town, smile, wave and know he is out there helping serve those that served us.

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

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 highlight those people doing good to help others.

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

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