(WSVN) - A highly decorated veteran died before being able to use his brand new electric wheelchair. His family knew what he would want to be done with the chair and that’s when they contacted Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
His name is Kenneth Whitmier. His middle name could be “Remarkable.”
Tammy Whitmier: “He was a very generous, giving, loving man.”
Tammy’s father, Sgt. Maj. Whitmier, served 27 amazing years in the U.S Army.
Gary Booze: Two tours in Vietnam, purple hearts, two Bronze Stars, one with valor. It just goes on and on, and on.”
Ask Mr. Whitmier about his achievements and Gary says you would learn another fact. He was humble.
Gary Booze: “I said, ‘What was the Bronze Star for?’ He said, ‘Being stupid?’ and that was the end of the conversation.”
Then in June, Mr. Whitmier passed away.
Gary Booze: “Lost the best member of our family and just trying to do something to remember him, and and carry on his wishes.”
This is one of those wishes Tammy’s father would want to see.
The VA had just given him this nice electric wheelchair.
Gary Booze: “It’s brand new. It’s never been used. The only place that’s ever gone around is right here in this living room.”
Gary tried to give it back to the Veterans Administration.
Gary Booze: “I actually went to the VA down the street. There’s no mechanism in the U.S government for taking back any of this equipment that I can find.”
But Gary and Tammy were determined to do what they knew the late Army veteran would want.
Gary Booze: “Ideally, dad would have like this to have gone to another veteran.”
So they asked Help Me Howard to find a needy veteran.
I contacted Joanna Pardo, the owner of Total Mobility. She is very familiar with people who need wheelchairs and found a veteran who didn’t have a chair.
With the help of Luis and Abdel from Channel 7, we loaded Mr. Whitmier’s two wheelchairs and walker in the truck and headed to meet Eugene Leonard.
Eugene Leonard: “I want the wheelchair. I can’t walk far, you know.”
Eugene badly needed a wheelchair.
Tammy and Gary were about to make it happen.
Gary Booze: “Brother. Thank you for your service.”
Eugene Leonard: “Thank you, thank you. Thank you.”
Eugene thought he was just getting a standard chair he’d have to wheel. He didn’t know it was an very nice, brand new electric chair that could also raise his seat up.
Eugene Leonard: “Oh, man. I appreciate what you’re doing for me. Given me the wheelchair and the chair.”
Gary Booze: “We didn’t do anything for you. Tammy’s dad, Master Sgt. Kenneth Whitmire, did this for you.”
While Eugene was thrilled by the chair, he was just as impressed by the rank of the man it belonged to.
Eugene Leonard: “I tip my hat off to him. As a sergeant major, that’s the highest you can get as an enlisted man.”
Then it was time for Eugene to try out his new toy.
Gary Booze: “When you press that, it turns on some headlights.”
Eugene Leonard: “OK. I’m gonna ride my little scooter for awhile.”
Tammy and Gary were as happy as Eugene, to accomplish what Tammy’s father would have wanted.
Gary Booze: “It’s a relief, you know, that we really got to see something good come out of this.”
A man who struggled to get around in a walker was free to go.
Eugene Leonard: “Oh, oh oh. I got this here.”
Eugene said he always wanted an electric wheelchair
Eugene Leonard: “Oh, you know, I’m not going to cry now, you know.”
He was just sorry another veteran had to pass away so he can get it.
Eugene Leonard: “And you got a good man with it to ’cause I will take care of this here and I will remember sergeant major. that helped me get this here.”
Two army veterans are now linked together in a unique way. Two thoughtful people made it happen.
Eugene Leonard: Thank you all so much for giving me this here. I’m on top of the world now. Whoo, thank you.”
You’re welcome, Eugene. And thank you Gary and Tammy for letting us be a part of your kind gesture.
Fighting a problem and can’t soldier on? Ready to get on a roll? Enlist with us ’cause it’s a gift for us to be able to help you.
With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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