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Sunday, June 4, 2023
June 4, 2023

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Orchards man’s radio station aims to help blind, visually impaired, disabled vets

By , Columbian staff writer
3 Photos
Gerald Gaule of Orchards runs a full-time audio information service, which features a station for blind and visually impaired veterans in Southwest Washington and northern Oregon.
Gerald Gaule of Orchards runs a full-time audio information service, which features a station for blind and visually impaired veterans in Southwest Washington and northern Oregon. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A local up-and-coming amateur radio station for blind and disabled veterans began airing every day from 6 a.m. to noon in December.

VetNet was added to the Northwest Audio Information Service and Community Growth Radio on Dec. 12 and is operated from its creator’s apartment in Orchards. There is no external money supporting the station, just an internal passion to keep it alive.

Gerald Gaule is a one-man operation. He has three tables that function as a large wrap-around desk, which has the right amount of surface area to hold all his equipment and various books, papers and CDs. Numerous cords snake throughout the room, and all the electrical sockets are full.

Gaule created the VetNet radio station because he saw a need that wasn’t being met for blind, visually impaired and disabled veterans in Southwest Washington and northern Oregon. It serves as an accessible source of entertainment and information for vets, Gaule said, as he draws programming from other stations that may be beneficial to listeners.

He was inspired by his brother who served in the Vietnam War, as well as others in the military.

“It’s for them. That’s how it started,” he said. “It’s just one inspiration after another.”

The network also has musical elements that deliver a sense of nostalgia to its listeners. Gaule incorporated tunes on his station that were aired on the Armed Forces Radio during the late 1950s to the mid-1970s during the Vietnam War. Listeners will also hear from veterans who share their journeys navigating the world post-service, such as repairing their mental health or beginning their own business.

In the future, Gaule hopes to include resources from local veteran organizations to expand his reach.

The network costs about $300 to cover internet and power usage, which Gaule sustains by using a portion of his disability checks. Retirement is an option, he said, but the station is a labor of love that he is willing to invest in.

“It’s not about the numbers or how many people listen,” he said. “I get satisfaction if I make someone’s day.”

VetNet can be accessed online at station.voscast.com/5d9602575e504/.

No stranger to the world of radio

Gaule worked at local commercial radio stations throughout his career and has been an amateur radio operator for 20 years.

Bob Ancheta, who was Gaule’s boss at Vancouver’s KAR station during its operation in the 1990s, said he is a natural radio operator and host who “lives and breathes” radio. Gaule, who is self-taught, ran the control board when there was special programming that didn’t require a disc jockey, he said. Eventually, Gaule worked his way on air.

After Ancheta and Gaule stopped working at the station, they kept in touch and stayed in the fulfilling, albeit slowly diminishing, radio business. Gaule’s persistence to reach more listeners through his projects — accompanied with his consistently full workload — impressed Ancheta.

“He feels for other people,” Ancheta said. “He’s just a compassionate guy all around.”