The American Legion helps people — veterans and non-veterans — without an expectation of thanks or recognition for doing so. That’s just what the American Legion does, explained Chris Mitchell, commander of the Hinesville American Legion Post 168.
Eugene Dowd, a member of Michell’s post, recently met a young man while shopping in Hinesville. He said his heart went out to Keith Kelly, who depended on his family to push him around in one of the store’s wheelchairs.
While talking to Kelly, Dowd learned he had a severe infection in both legs caused by type 1 diabetes. One leg had been amputated above the knee, the other below the knee. Kelly said Medicaid required he wait 14 days before he could be scheduled for surgery. By then the infection had spread, making him a candidate for having both legs removed 12-inches above the knee.
“I could see this was a fine young, a country boy,” Dowd said. “I started thinking there might be some way the Legion could help him. Then I remembered that I was storing two motorized wheelchairs for the (Disabled American Veterans).”
Dowd said he had had the wheelchairs at his house for more than three years, looking for someone who needed them.
“When you’ve got something somebody needs, you help them,” he said. “I found someone who needed one of those chairs. The only problem was the batteries were bad.”
That’s when Dowd talked to his Legion commander.
“Mr. Dowd called me and asked me if we could get some batteries to help this young man,” Mitchell said. “I talked with some of the other members then I went up to Savannah and bought two batteries. They were about $90 each. We didn’t do this for publicity.”
Kelly, 36, a Ludowici native, said he saw Dowd watching him as he entered the store on his crutches and was being helped into a wheelchair by his wife and stepdaughter. He said Dowd came over and, without first introducing himself, asked if he’d like to have a powered wheelchair.
“I told I’d love to have one, but that I’m on a very limited income,” Kelly said. “I said I couldn’t afford to pay for one. He then asked me if he could give me one, explaining that he belonged to an organization that helped people like me. I got a friend to take me to his house and the chair was put in the back of the truck. But the batteries weren’t any good.”
Kelly said he tried charging the batteries, but it didn’t take. He said Dowd asked him to get the old batteries to him. He then told him he’d ask the Legion to get new batteries. Kelly admitted he feared it was going to cost him money. But, the next day Dowd got the new batteries to him.
Kelly also said friends have built a temporary ramp into his trailer and are planning a permanent one soon.
In contrast to the good things that have happened to him recently, Kelly learned that his mother died Thursday night. He wasn’t able to go see her in Ocala, Fla., before she died and now can’t afford to bring her home to Ludowici to be buried next to his father, who died only five years ago.
He sighed, then said he was the only member of his family with severe medical problems. Then almost laughing, he said he’d never drank, smoked or used illegal drugs. Now doctors tell him he won’t see age 40, he said.
Dowd, who retired at Fort Stewart in 1970, said his Legion commander was right that the post doesn’t seek publicity, but he thought it was good for the community to know the Legion does things like this. He said it “doesn’t hurt” to let the community know we do these things, so if they need it, they know where they might find help.