As he gazed upon his new Action Trackchair, Woodrow Greenfeather summed up his feelings in one word.
"I'll be able to get back into the woods and go hunting and fishing, and do all kinds of stuff," Greenfeather said, as he watched Melanie and Dan Carlson unload his chair on Saturday, April 8. "This means freedom. It's awesome."
The chair, provided to Greenfeather by a grant from the Independence Fund, is an all-terrain wheelchair, outfitted with a 12-amp battery charger, tilt function, cushioned armrests, fixed footrest, Type 1 tracks, rear stability wheels, and independent flip arms.
The chair is designed to travel all forms of terrain including snow, ice, mud and water.
Greenfeather received the chair, worth more than $13,000 through Carlson Mobility, an Austin, Texas-based company, thanks to the funding provided by the Independence Fund.
The organization, supported by Bill O'Reilly, provides wounded veterans and their caregivers a way to take control of their lives.
Officials with the fund do this by providing resources and tools that enable veterans to work through physical, mental and emotional wounds in order to regain their independence.
"I love it," Greenfeather said, as he finished his initial test drive. "I'm almost in tears right now."
How it began
Greenfeather first learned of the Action Trackchair in February while attending the MidSouth Tackle, Hunting and Boat Show in Grove.
"I was looking at them from a distance," Greenfeather said. "I knew I couldn't afford a chair. Melanie called me over and asked me what happened. She told me 'I can get you a chair.'
"I had my doubts. That was two months ago, and now here it is. Melaine is awesome."
Melanie Carlson said she and her husband, Dan, often attend shows, not to sell chairs, but instead to provide information to veterans on the various programs available to fund chairs.
In this instance, the Carlsons worked with Greenfeather to apply for two different funding sources. When those did not materialize, Greenfeather said Melanie Carlson said kept looking.
"Melanie is a nurse. She likes to take care of people," Dan Carlson said. "She keeps track of all of the guys - especially ones like him [Greenfeather] who slip thru the cracks. It's just so much fun to help them out."
While Greenfeather did not qualify for a chair using the traditional route, the Carlsons were able to help him get a refurbished chair, returned by a veteran who could no longer use it.
"I like the fact that we're taking a perfectly good chair, and giving it to someone else," Dan Carlson said.
In this case, the Independence Fund was able to help rehab the chair - which Dan Carlson said was less than a year old - and outfit Greenfeather with several accessories, including a way to haul it with his car.
On Saturday, the Carlsons spent at least an hour on Saturday, helping Greenfeather learn about the features of his chair.
"It's pretty rewarding," Melanie Carlson said. "I'm very honored."
More about Greenfeather
Greenfeather received multiple injuries while serving with the 101st Airborne, during the initial invasion into Iraq. Because of this, he was medically discharged from the U.S. Army in 2007.
Those injuries were further exasperated in September 2013, when Greenfeather was involved in a motorcycle accident in southern Delaware county.
That incident, he said, left him without feeling in his legs from the calf down, as well as limited mobility in his arms and back.
Those injures not only meant he could no longer go hunting and fishing, it also forced him to step down from his role with the Hickory Grove Fire Department.
"This is going to let me go hunting again, and fish from the banks [of Grand Lake]," Greenfeather said. "All I can do now is fish from the docks."
About Carlson Mobility
Carlson Mobility is a distributor of Action Trackchairs. Based in Austin, Texas, the Carlsons' territory includes New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and parts of Louisiana.
Action Trackchairs were developed by Dan Carlson's uncle, Tim Swenson, after his son, Jeff, was paralyzed in a car accident.
"He wanted to find ways to get my cousin back outdoors," Dan Carlson said. "We take all of this very personally. It's not just a job, but it's a family affair."
He added the couple are currently working with two other veterans, they met during the MidSouth show. If those veterans qualify for chairs, the Carlsons expect to return to Grove.
In addition to Greenfeather's chair, the pair made stops in Dallas, Woodward and El Reno, dropping chairs off with other veterans - all paid for through donations from the Independence Fund.
About the Independence Fund
Carrie Stead, care director for the Independence Fund, said the organization strives to get veterans back outdoors as a way to thank them.
"They gave their time in the service," Stead said. "The least we can do is give them back some of their independence."
While new chairs cost upwards of $13,000, Stead said refurbished chairs can cost approximately $5,000, depending upon what needs to be fixed for its new owner.
A physical therapist by trade, and the wife of a veteran wounded in 2009 in Afghanistan, Stead said watching veterans regain their freedom is priceless.
For more information about the Independence Fund, persons interested may visit http://independencefund.org. For more information about Action Trackchairs and Carlson Mobility, persons interested may visit www.trackchairsoutheast.com, www.facebook.com/carlsonmobility or 512-769-6376.