Three years ago Menahga, Minnesota, started his own business, a transportation service called Freedom Express.
“I wanted to work for myself and I heard from a nurse friend what the other transport companies were charging people who drove from Park Rapids to Fargo,” he said. “And I thought, wow, I could ask for a lot less and still make money.
“I wanted to give people a cheaper option and I really like helping people. It’s more worthwhile than the money. The name for my business came from my patriotic side. ”
While people in metropolitan areas have buses, trams, and taxis to take them to appointments, choices are much more limited in small towns. There is no taxi service here, and the Heartland Express bus only runs on designated routes and times, and only serves residents of the Park Rapids area within 2 miles of the city limits. Living at Home of the Park Rapids Area offers rides with volunteer drivers, but only for people aged 65 and over.
That is why Dozier’s van, adorned with the American flag and soaring eagle, is a symbol of hope for the driver and passengers. Freedom Express is on call 24 hours a day. That means if someone ends up in the emergency room by ambulance, they have a way home. The van is also wheelchair accessible.
Mastering your own challenges
Upon returning from Iraq, Mike Dozier was greeted at home by friends and family, including his niece Samara, who were all smiling. He has a heart for veterans and goes to extra lengths to make sure they get appointments at VA hospitals. (Photo submitted)
Dozier, who grew up in Kentucky, served in Iraq in 2006. He then worked as a hydropower mechanic for the Bureau of Reclamation in Colorado before moving to Minnesota five years ago.
Two years ago, Dozier suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries while riding a motorcycle and had to crash into the ditch to avoid a head-on collision with another vehicle.
After working as a personal trainer at the gym in Menahga, he worked hard to rehabilitate his body so it could be active again.
“I had over 30 broken bones,” he said. “Feet, vertebrae, ribs, fingers, collarbones and shoulder blades. The impact tore my liver in half and made a hole in my kidney.
“I kept my faith strong and knew that God would heal me. Also through incredible pain. I just kept believing. I knew that even in this life he had plans for me to do something to help people. I fully recovered in six months. ”
Dozier uses the experience of his own accident to help those on their own healing journey.
Dozier not only offers its customers rides, but also gives its customers an open ear, supports and encourages them on their way and offers a helping hand to others who are going through a difficult situation in their life.
No distance is too big or too small. “I go wherever people need me,” he said. “In a couple of weeks I’m taking a wife and her husband to Louisiana. They were up here camping with their family and she fell and broke a leg and now they need help getting home.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Dozier considered adding another van but decided to wait.
“I’m glad I did because the people who needed trips to doctor’s appointments slowed down a lot during that time,” he said, adding that the business has gradually built up this year as the restrictions have been repealed.
Giving a lot more than driving
One of the riders Dozier has helped is Mary Ann Pech, who is in her 80s and lives in the Nevis, Minnesota area. She had to drive home this winter after being released from CHI St. Joseph’s Hospital in Park Rapids. There she informed an employee about Freedom Express.
“I was amazed at how accommodating and helpful Mike was,” said Pech. “He just didn’t take me. On the way home, he took me to the drugstore to pick up a prescription. He was very kind and nice.
“He could have just dropped me off at the door after the ride, but he led me in to a chair I would be comfortable in, asked about a number of things to make sure I felt safe, and didn’t leave until he “I was sure I had neighbors to help me.
This experience meant a lot of bad luck.
“If you are not yourself and you are not feeling well, you don’t just need the ride. You need someone who is loving and kind, ”she said. “He’s a friend when you’re in dire need. Providing the ride is just the beginning of the story. It’s the person who does the ride that makes it special. If you need that ride there is a reason for it. You need that helping hand. He’s a God-man through and through and has been such a blessing to me. “
Dozier is particularly sensitive to the needs of veterans in the area, who often have to travel to Fargo VA Hospital for the medical care they need.
“The Disabled American Veterans Organization does a great job bringing veterans to appointments for free, but they can’t get everyone where they need to go, so that’s where I come in,” Dozier said. “The price of some medical transport services is too expensive for those who are not insured, so I have worked hard to keep travel costs as affordable as possible.”
“I am grateful that there are veterans out there who can help other veterans,” said Jerry Bjerke, Hubbard County’s Veterans Service officer. “We took care of each other in service and can now do it outside of service. It’s great that he has an ADA wheelchair accessible van. That fills a niche that most other organizations can’t. “