Two military veterans with service-related disabilities and two Gold Star Mothers who lost their sons in combat each received keys to practically brand-new cars from GEICO and Caliber Collision to thank and honor them for their service and sacrifices. The special presentation took place at the Washington Nationals ballpark during one of the National League East Division Champion’s last regular season home games.
“I’m so excited I don’t know what to do with myself,” said Sharon Neil, a veteran Army Reservist, upon receiving her newly refurbished 2014 Chevy Cruze. “I’m full, if you understand what that means, I’m full. Speechless, excited.”
The late-model cars were provided by GEICO and refurbished by technicians at Caliber Collision shops who volunteered their efforts as a community service. The four vehicles were donated as part of the National Auto Body Council’s (NABC) Recycled Rides program, where businesses in the collision industry team up to restore vehicles to help individuals in need.
“Our veterans and families have sacrificed a great deal and suffered tragic losses for our country,” said Paul Krauss, Caliber Collision senior vice president of operations. “Now, in their time of need, it is our honor to provide the gift of transportation that can help rebuild and restore their lives.”
Recycled Rides recipients included:
- Brad Gagnon, who is a Marine Corps Veteran from Woodbridge, Va., with school-aged children. He has been unable to work because of his service-related disabilities. His wife has a job at a daycare center. The demands of her job, getting Brad to his medical appointments, and the needs of their two children make owning a car a necessity.
- Sharon Neil, also of Woodbridge, who has been in the Army Reserves for 20 years and deployed twice. Neil has service-connected disabilities, and last year began a battle with cancer. She was unable to work and forced into homelessness. Her health has stabilized, she has a new job but is not on a bus route and has to spend a large part of her paycheck on cab fares.
- Mary Wiley, whose son, Army SPC Ross E Vogel III, enlisted right after Sept. 11, 2001. He died in Iraq on Sept. 29, 2009, while serving his third tour of duty. Wiley found inspiration and strength through the American Gold Star Mothers. Despite her limited resources and lack of transportation, Wiley, of Glen Burnie, Md., has volunteered countless hours helping military families and veterans and has received several service awards from Ft. Meade.
- Donna Robinson, of Baltimore, the proud Gold Star Mother of Staff Sgt. Damion G. Campbell, who was killed in 2005 during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. She, too, is committed to carry on the legacy of her son’s service by serving veterans, active-duty soldiers and their families. A severe back injury forced her to stop working and limited her income and, in the process, she lost her car.
“GEICO associates have a proud 80-year history of supporting our military heroes and local community members,” said Nancy Pierce, GEICO senior vice president. “We’re especially pleased with this opportunity to join the Washington Nationals, Caliber Collision and other local businesses to provide a helping hand to our deserving veterans and Gold Star Mothers.”