Local non-profit works to provide disabled veterans with combat-worthy chairs
YAKIMA, Wash.-"I just couldn't feature that somebody would drive up to my house and say here's a vehicle that cost $16,000 and I’m giving it to you. How often does that happen to anybody?" said Al Olsen, a local Vietnam Veteran.
In the Yakima Valley, Al Olsen is the only one to receive such a gift, but it's a gift well deserved according to Russ Henry, the founder of a newly developed non-profit in the valley called Off Road Riders for Veterans, that provides track mobility chairs like this one to disabled veterans like Olsen.
"I was too young for Vietnam. I mean my generation has probably gone through the greatest peace time period in the history of our country and I just understand that they're one of the key components to why we have our freedom," said Henry.
But it's Henry that's now giving freedom to Olsen.
"I don't feel like I’m in prison anymore. I don't feel like I’m locked in the house. I don't feel like I’m stuck,” said Olsen.
Serving for 23 years as a Marine, 13 of those as an officer, Olsen has accomplished a lot in life.
He spent 13 months overseas during Vietnam, completing 195 missions, ensuring U.S. Aircraft were protected from enemy radar and missile attacks.
However, life slowed down years after retiring when a yearly check-up revealed Olsen had type two diabetes, he says was due to exposure to Agent Orange during Vietnam.
Over time, Olsen's mobility deteriorated, altering his active lifestyle to a life spent at home until his son-in-law reached out to Henry right after the funds for the first chair were raised.
"I said, ‘Is your dad a veteran?’ and he said, ‘Yes and he's disabled. He hasn't been able to get out of the house for 5 years and so I said, “I’ll tell you what…I can be there in 30 minutes,’" said Henry retelling the day he delivered Olsen’s chair to him.
And within a half hour of that phone call, Olsen was moving.
"Russ gave me my legs back. I can do things now that I didn't do before," said Olsen.
His old life restored.
"I was born again out in that street there,” said Olsen.
The chairs allow veterans to conquer all types of terrain and assist in things like hunting and fishing, and Olsen says he's already got his fishing trip in the works.
If you know of a veteran that would benefit from one of these chairs or would like to know more about Off Road Riders for Veterans, you can find more information here.