As a Service Member, there is always a risk of injury. Unfortunately, some injuries will result in permanent disabilities. But with technology today, even the loss of a limb can’t stop a person from doing the things they enjoy in life. Organizations like The Independence Fund are working with Veterans to ensure they have the technology necessary to continue doing what they love. If you are a disabled Veteran or know someone who is, this information could change your life.
One such recipient of this Veteran benefit is Mr. Henry Kent – a Vietnam Veteran who suffered several gunshot wounds that resulted in the amputation of one of his legs. Kent is a born-and-raised country boy who served his country with pride, and has a great attitude towards adversity. He enlisted at age 16 and was sent in the woods to infantry. Being a country boy, he felt right at home in this environment.
During the Vietnam War, Kent was shot in both of his legs. He said it was like someone had a board and slapped him across his legs. It wasn’t until he felt the warm blood on his legs that he realized what had happened. He tried not to holler for fear of the safety of his comrades. The enemy was smart and they knew American troops never left anyone behind. They would often wait for help to arrive so that they could attack two soldiers instead of just one. In a matter of two or three minutes, he had lost so much blood that he had to crawl. He said pulling the weight of his legs was like pulling a building. Eventually, he did get help, and survived mostly intact with the exception of one of his legs, which later had to be amputated.
After all of this, Kent was still alive and he thanked God for that. He may never be able to play football again, but he still had a strong will to thrive and enjoy his life. He moved on to a new favorite hobby – fishing. He loved to fish, but being restricted to his chair made the task a bit of a challenge – It’s not often that a lake has a clear opening that he can drive to. He voiced this concern to the General, who told him about a pond on Fort Gordon that hardly anyone used. He went to that pond, and it was beautiful. He didn’t know the area too well since it was his first time there. In one area the grass was cut and it looked like a safe place to drive on, but once he drove onto the grassy section, he quickly realized it was a marsh. His tires were stuck and he couldn’t shake it loose! Thankfully, a postal truck was driving by and saw him. He made it out safely, but that event was something that hindered him from doing what he loved. He loves independence, but his disability keeps him from this full freedom. Fishing is what he did – what made him happy. So when this was taken from him, he was determined to get it back.
One day at the infantry clinic at the VA, Kent saw a poster with a picture of a disabled Veteran riding, what seemed to be, a personalize tank. It was an Action Trackchair – a motorized chair with tracks instead of wheels. After seeing that chair, he knew he needed to get one. He asked the staff at the clinic how he could get one. They said that the VA didn’t provide the chair, and that it was donated through a fundraiser of some kind. He started asking around about it, and that’s how he found Mr. Daryl Walker, the Health Benefits Advisor at Eisenhower Army Medical Center.
Walker was determined to find this chair for Kent. Medicare wouldn’t cover it since it was considered an outdoor activity, and Tricare wouldn’t cover it because Medicare wouldn’t cover it. After some research, they found a way – there is a grand that is offered through an organization called The Independence Fund (www.independencefund.org) that would cover the $15,000 cost of the chair. Kent sent in an application and was overjoyed to hear he was approved for the grant! His determination, along with the help of Walker, made this dream possible.
As of January 2014, they started building Kent’s custom Action Trackchair and it’s scheduled to arrive in May 2014. Once it’s delivered, he’ll be able to return to the lake and fish without the worry of getting stuck in the mud.
Although the risk of injury and disability will always be there, Kent’s great outlook on life shows us that a disability doesn’t have to be the end. If you are a Veteran with a disability, speak with your VA or Heath Benefits Advisor to see what options are available to you to help get you back to the things you enjoy in life.
Stay tuned for more of Kent’s story in the coming months.