Bud Shepherd’s message is simple.
“We need to take care of these guys,” he says.
"These guys," are wounded veterans -- the hundreds that have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Shepherd knows a little something about sacrificing for the country. In 1944 -- right around his 19th birthday -- Shepherd was a tail gunner on a B-17 that was hit on a mission over Leipzig, Germany.
“They were shooting those 88mm at us and we had a shell go through the outer portion of the right wing on the airplane - left a big hole,” says Shepherd. “We lost three engines over the target. And then we started losing altitude and we flew for, oh maybe, two hours on one engine. We got back within 30 miles of France and that engine just quit -- it just stopped just like you turn a light switch off.”
The Germans were waiting for him. He spent the next few months in a prisoner-of-war camp there.
Shepherd came home and went on with life, which included starting a company called the Resources Exchange Association. They obtain and then resell food and other necessities at prices not seen since before Shepherd left for the war in 1944. He got the idea when he was working near Ft. Bragg and learned how many soldiers were on what used to be called food stamps.
Then, he got another idea. These wounded veterans -- some of whom are being provided with new homes, specially designed to help them with their injuries, could really use some tools. Not just a few things to pitter around the house with, but nearly a thousand dollars worth of high-end tools that they can really use … the kind of collection that some veterans say becomes a family heirloom.
Stephen Baker works with Shepherd at the Reach Wounded Warrior Veterans Program, securing the corporate donations that make up much of the toolbox. Baker and Shepherd try to travel to deliver the toolboxes to the veterans personally.
“Ahh, I got chills, thinking about that,” says Baker. “Seeing their face when you give it to them, even though it's just a toolbox with $800 worth of tools ... they're thankful, they tear up, they always want their kids in the picture when we take one, because they say, 'I'm going to pass this down to my son.'"
See how the program works as they present a toolbox, here in North Carolina, in this edition of the Buckley Report.
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