Twice as many veterans were able to attend an event in their honor at the Springfield Elk's lodge because of a new, specially-outfitted bus able to transport disabled veterans.
The veterans had been dealing with an older, dilapidated bus with a lift and a newer modern bus that got wrecked. Now, these veterans say they have their freedom back.
Veteran Mike Pennington was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor at Camp Pendleton. But, for Pennington and dozens of other veterans this bus now represents freedom allowing these vets to attend the Elks Lodge barbeque.
Pennington was on a bus similar to this one last year on highway 39 in Lawrence County when they were run off the road by a semi.
"Thank God our alert activities supervisor was driving because, on impact there would have been at least eight of us dead," says Pennington.
For most of last year veterans were sitting out activities only 10 to 15 veterans were able to participate at a time.
But, with these new wheels, these wheelchair bound veterans can finally get around.
"These buses are more readily accessible because of the ramp system you could walk up, roll up with your wheel chair, power chair," Pennington says.
The Springfield Elks Lodge helped raise thousands, we just helped get the word out.
Gary Commer heads up the veterans committee for the Springfield Elk's Lodge.
"We try to do something every month with the vets, either here or down at Mount Vernon. Just something that makes you feel good," says Comer.
With two buses, they can haul twice the number of veterans.
"The new buses seat 15 and they are a lot wider in the aisle than the other old buses," says Pennington.
But, Pennington says, the sense of freedom is most important.
"Sanity, seeing new faces, breathing fresh air, mingling, if you will," says Pennington.
The bus is not just used to take veterans to special events like the barbaque. Daily runs are made within Mount Vernon to take veterans to the store, on field trips and to doctor's appointments.
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