Your Story. Our Morgan County. Tracks4Vets

Tracks4Vets Helping Veterans to “Drive On. Serve On. and Work On.”

Written By: Robin Reid, Storyteller/Content Manager

Many military veterans have difficulty adjusting to civilian life when they either return from active duty for a while or retire from their branch of service. Gone are the days of a highly disciplined structure/routine where they’re doing most everything as a collective group as well as the bonds they formed with others who, like them, were trained to sacrifice for their country.

The stronger than steel connection between veterans is like no other. However, when these soldiers return home their connection is hard to maintain. They go their separate ways and try to cope with life outside of service. It’s not uncommon for these men and women to isolate from the world, including families and friends. Many disabled vets lack desire for a new life as they battle depression and other disorders.

Tracks4Vets, a nonprofit funded through the Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC), raises money to purchase Tracked Utility Carriers (TUCs) for disabled veterans, helping them to return to work or find a job in the construction, agricultural, commercial or residential industries. In addition, the TUC also serves as a recreational utility vehicle, allowing them to be active outside their homes.

(Left to Right) Tracks4Vets Co-Founder Tricia Ringer, Chad Ringer, U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Veteran Charles Lee, Luke Justus, U.S. Air Force Major General (Retired) Erika C. Steuterman (sitting), U.S. Army Veteran Brad Justus, Joan Justus.

“We give credit to CFMC for being responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Tracks4Vets fund. It allows us to focus on providing TUCs to veterans while keeping an on eye on other ways we can serve them in the future,” said Tracks4Vets Co-Founder Tricia Ringer.

VFW partnership will help reach more veterans.

Recently, Tracks4Vets announced its partnership with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Department of Indiana to reach more vets and funding opportunities for the TUCs.

“I have firsthand experience of how a tool like the TUC allows me to get out from behind the walls,” said Ring-Co Director of Veterans Affairs Charles (Chuck) Lee. “This partnership will make an impact on reducing veteran suicide rates. We just have to get it out there so our veterans can get back to serving.”

The national suicide rate among vets increased from 2005 (23.8%) to 2015 (29.7%) by about 25 percent. Veterans continue to have a much higher suicide rate than the U.S. population at large, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Tracks4Vets reports nearly 1.4% (approximately 22 million people) of the U.S. population has served in the military. Out of the 22 million, one-fourth of them has some type of a service-connected disability (physical, mental or both) that’s lifelong. According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 88,170 disabled vets live in Indiana.

Lee joined the Army’s 82nd Airborne unit 1988 and completed Ranger training in 1990. During his nine years of service, he was deployed to Panama, the Persian Gulf, and Iraq. He also enlisted with the Army National Guard and served from 1993-1997, after which he retired with full disability due to his service as a paratrooper and exposure to environmental toxins while overseas.

After returning home, Lee experienced numerous physical and mental ailments; had many surgeries; and relied on either a cane or wheelchair for mobility. A few years later, he received an all-terrain chair with help from a nonprofit helping disabled vets. However, the chair wasn’t built for outdoor living such as going up hills or long distance.

Veteran ready to transform his life.

Lee determined to help other veterans become more mobile and as a result, he found a new purpose for his life.

The Tracked Utility Carrier (TUC) helps disabled vets enjoy outdoor activities and work in the agricultural, construction, commercial and residential industries.

That new purpose led him to Ring-Co, a Trafalgar (IN) business that takes ideas and manufactures them into innovative products.

“Chuck asked if we could make the chair better and I said no, but we can make something completely different,” said Ring-Co Chief Executive Officer Tricia Ringer. “Our goal with any product, person or process is to improve it, and we thought why make a utility vehicle, so veterans can actually work with it? Getting outdoors is great, but really being able to give back is the kind of work that gives us purpose.”

Ring-Co President Chad Ringer designed the TUC that’s a combination of a utility tractor and skid steer loader, operated by a joystick, and meets disability specifications. The TUC is equipped with an air-ride seat, 4,200-pound towing capacity, 37-horsepower EFI gas engine, rollover protection system, and a patented attachment method for plows, trailers, sprayers, and more.

“The TUC has given me my life back. It gives me freedom, purpose, and passion. I’ll tell you something about vets, we just want to give back. We’ve seen the worst of the worst. When we come home, we want to give back and help,” added Lee. “That’s all we want to do, but we have to get help ourselves before we can help others and that’s hard to find.”

Lee’s idea not only led to a new and improved all-terrain utility vehicle but also a new job. He is Ring-Co’s Director of Veterans Affairs, giving him more opportunities to help his fellow comrades.

You can help disabled veterans find hope and purpose.

Veterans from anywhere in the U.S. can apply online at www.tracks4vets.com. TUC’s total cost is $30,000 and for every purchase, Ring-Co donates a percentage back to Tracks4Vets.

VFW Adjutant and Quartermaster (Navy) Troy “Doc” King supports Track4Vets work to help disabled veterans.

 

Tracks4Vets is thankful for the generous donations made so far by individuals, corporations and other nonprofits. However, there are many more disabled vets needing an open door to become active again.

“I would tell them they are far stronger than they give themselves credit and give power only to the positive influences in their lives. If they don’t have positive influences – seek them out,” said U.S. Army Veteran and Tracks4Vets Co-Founder Brad Justus when asked what he would tell veterans struggling to overcome their challenges.

It’s time to help men and women who have served our country faithfully to be able to “Drive On. Serve On. and Work On.”

Be a life changer like Tracks4Vets and sponsor a TUC for a veteran who has sacrificed much to protect you and your freedom. If you don’t have $30,000, at least give something, because every dollar matters. Go to www.cfmconline.org/donate and give TODAY.

CFMC’s mission is to connect donors and their charitable giving with our evolving community needs in order to enhance the quality of life for current and future generations through impact grantmaking. The vision of CFMC is to be the philanthropic leader and a catalyst in order to maximize available resources in our community.

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