By CRA News Service
DELRAY BEACH – A Navy veteran who was wounded in Iraq will soon find his mobility much improved thanks to a local veteran’s organization.
The Delray Beach Elks Lodge 1770 on Sunday presented Peter Reid, 54, of Palm Bay, with a state-of-the-art track chair — a motorized wheelchair with tank-like treads. The wheelchair can help people with disabilities move easily over gravel and grass where a traditional or motorized wheel chair would get stuck.
“I can’t express how I feel and I really want to thank all of you for all you have done. This track chair … is going to help me go places where I couldn’t go in [the old] one,” said Reid, a Navy Seabee, who is partially paralyzed and blind in one eye after a 2004 mortar attack in Iraq’s Anbar province that killed five men and injured 34. “I didn’t sleep at all last night. It was like Christmas for me knowing I got this.”
Reid, who was assigned to a unit at the Navy Reserve Center in West Palm Beach, also suffered a severe brain injury, paralysis on the left side of his body, and bits of shrapnel remain in his head and body.
Vincent Como, a past state president of the Lodge, said Robert F. Shell, another past state president, suggested helping a wounded veteran from the area who had lost his or her arms or legs. Shell liked the $12,000 battery-operated wheelchair because it is all-terrain and offers more mobility than the average wheelchair.
“When he first heard of the track chair project, the first thing out of Bob’s mouth was, ‘We have to get one and give it to a vet,’” Como recalled. “Bob left us with a legacy of giving and caring with determination, dedication and perseverance. He was always thinking of how he could make things better for others.”
Shell, who spearheaded the project, died in January and did not see his dream materialized.
The fully off-road wheelchair, which uses rubber tracks, was designed to go up and down hills without tipping over. The unit is capable of going through the woods or to the beach, and can maneuver in mud, sand or snow – even shallow water.
Reid has undergone numerous surgeries and hardships, but it hasn’t deterred his efforts to work with his wife, Michele, to help fellow wounded veterans.
They bought a 50-acre farm in Georgia and plan to use the track chair to get around as well as host other disabled veterans for hunting, camping, sporting activities and other adaptive sports.
“We want to turn it into a place for injured veterans who are suffering from PTSD and [traumatic brain injury] to go and decompress,” he said. “When a vet gets injured, it’s not just the vet that has to suffer. It’s the family because they are the core that makes up the recovery team.”