FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The Warrior and Family Support Center jumped on the band wagon Oct. 24 and participated in "Make a Difference Day" a national, annual event where neighbors help neighbors by participating in a project that will help the community.

Volunteers at WFSC built Personal Energy Transportation vehicles, hand-craned wheelchairs with solid rubber tires for use on dirt and grass. Known as PETs the wheelchairs are shipped to less fortunate disabled people in other countries allowing them better mobility in areas without sidewalks or paved roads.

Wounded warriors, Warriors in Transition, Soldiers and civilians at the center wanted to do something as a way to repay all that has been given to them or "pay it forward," according to Judith Markelz, program manager for the WFSC.

PETs are built entirely by volunteers at 13 sites in the U.S. and in four other countries. For $250, a PET can be built and delivered anywhere in the world.

The idea for building PETs during Make a Difference Day was born from Markelz's visit with the founder of National Alliance for Veterans, Hector Villarreal, Lt. Col. U.S. Army (retired). Villarreal presented the idea to Markelz asking "Can you see our Soldiers using this as an opportunity to give back all that has been given to them'"

With picture perfect weather beneath a bright blue Texas sky, about 15 PET volunteers worked with over 15 wounded warriors, WFSC staff and volunteers.

"The local community does a lot for us and it's good to have the opportunity to do something for others," said Mike Burnside, a wounded warrior since May.

"This is my first experience with anything like this. I think it is a great way to give back. Anyone can help by drilling a hole or hammering nails. And everyone who has been here today brings such a good spirit," said Yvette Smith, a volunteer in the assembly line.

Tom Martin, president for PET San Antonio said, "The folks here today are doing something that has such an impact on other people. We send most of our PETs to Mexico where diabetes is a huge problem resulting in amputation, usually of the legs."

"This is therapeutic for the Soldiers working here to put these (PETs) together, whether it is a Soldier or a homeless veteran they can then say 'hey I can do this.' There are young wounded warriors here today talking to some of us older veterans and we are establishing relationships. Who knows where that relationship will take them," said Villarreal.

"The guys were awesome! They gave back to the community which was very important to them. Some of the Soldiers stayed for the entire day, from first thing in the morning until three in the afternoon when they finished up. They had such a good time," said Evelyn Jackson, WFSC office manager.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16