By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Neighbors in Willie Williams’ community of Cleveland may see him out and about a lot more in the coming days after he received a new motorized wheelchair Thursday night.
Williams, a Vietnam veteran, suffers from nerve damage and other ailments related to his exposure to Agent Orange, a condition that is further complicated by diabetes and the amputation of his right leg.
Williams applied for a grant from the non-profit organization Wheelchairs for Warriors and says he never had any expectation that he would be picked to receive a new wheelchair.
“I have never been blessed with good luck. When they called me, I didn’t believe them at first,” Williams said. “I still don’t believe it.”
For years, he has tried to get around his property on his old motorized wheelchair that has bald tires and is patched together with duct tape. Williams said the electronic controls often fail when they get damp.
“My old wheelchair would get stuck in grass that was wet from dew. This thing had no traction. Now I can go in my backyard. I will have the liberty of going fishing,” said Williams, smiling at the thought.
Williams served two years in the U.S. Army, stationed in Cam Ranh Bay and Phan Rang on the southeastern coast of Vietnam. Serving as a military policeman with the 54th Transportation Battalion, Williams’ job was guarding convoys that delivered supplies in support of the war. On one occasion, he helped guard General William Westmoreland during a visit to Vietnam.
After the war, he and his wife, Anne, went on to raise three sons, who have given them six grandchildren. Williams worked for 19 years as a welder until health problems forced him to retire.
The new motorized wheelchair, with an estimated value of $10,000, was presented to Williams during VFW Post 1839’s steak night on Thursday, Jan. 30. Presenting the wheelchair were Crystal Laramore and Heidi Hansing, co-founders of Wheelchairs for Warriors, and Paul Morgan, seating specialist and engineer for the non-profit.
Laramore said that veterans like Williams wrote a blank check for Americans when they risked their lives in the military, so Americans should be writing a blank check back to the veterans.
“He served in one of the most horrific wars that anyone has ever seen,” Laramore said, adding that the Veterans Administration is not doing enough to help veterans like Williams in their time of need.
Since its founding in 2016, Wheelchairs for Warriors has given away 14 wheelchairs to U.S. military veterans. This year, the organization plans to give away 20 more.
For more information on Wheelchairs for Warriors or to make a donation, go online to www.wheelchairsforwarriors.com