PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Army veteran Fred Saunders, 63, lost his Pender County home due to damage after Hurricane Florence. It was the third time his home was destroyed.
“I lost a home back in Hurricane Floyd, then in a fire while I was in a hospital, and now Florence," Saunders said. "It’s been difficult.”
Since his stroke three years ago, Saunders has had to use a wheelchair and he has been living in a tent for two months in the backyard of his property since Florence.
“I didn’t know which way I was going to turn, what I was going to do," Saunders said. "(The tent) was better than sleeping outside. I was just doing anything I could to survive.”
Mulch and sludge on his property make it hard for him even to check the mail or get a handle on his dogs.
That’s where Tom McCrae enters the picture.
“Because of how bad I got wounded, most people won’t take my help," McCrae said.
McCrae served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was wounded in both wars. He has no legs, one working arm, and one working eye and he will soon lose the other eye. He also has limited hearing.
“When I saw Fred’s situation, I wanted to help him, and I had this track wheelchair that I was not using,” said McCrae.
The wheelchair, valued at $14,000, is like a motorized four-wheeler of sorts. It can go up inclines, stairs and through muck and mud.
“It’s good for him," McCrae said. "It will increase his mobility, which will then improve his quality of life. I get to take what I have and pass it on to someone who needs it more than me.”
Saunders had no idea he was getting another piece of machinery that would change his life.
“We are going to make sure you get around this mud, sir,” said Truckin' 4 Troops organizer Scott Mallary as he drove the new track wheelchair up to Saunders, who was parked by his tent.
“Oh my God, I don’t know what to think," Saunders said. "I am overjoyed inside and about to bubble over. I prayed for a miracle and it rolled in today.”
McCrae greeted his fellow veteran with a handshake and showed him how the new wheelchair works.
“Have some fun with it," McCrae told Saunders. "There is no way you will get stuck now.”
“These two men are my new best friends," Saunders said of Mallary and McRae as tears rolled down his face. "I didn’t think there was anything left. Everywhere I turned, I ran into a closed door and they came into my life, restored my faith in humanity.”
After a short test drive of his new wheelchair, Saunders took a peek at his new trailer courtesy of Truckin' 4 Troops, which works to improve the lives of active or retired military members.
“This is a mansion," Saunders said of the camper. "Everything I see here has restored my faith in God.”
Truckin 4 Troops is looking for donations to help other veterans who are living in poor conditions after Hurricane Florence. Click here if you’d like to donate.