Niles veteran given the gift of mobility
Published 8:42 am Monday, May 12, 2014
While serving as an Army tank driver in the first Desert Storm war, Niles’ Tom Kelley stuck his head out of the hatch of an M1 tank to get a breath of fresh air. At the same time, one of his fellow soldiers fired the tank’s main gun.
“A 120-millimeter shockwave hit me in the face and blew my ear drums out,” he said.
Since then, the 45-year-old has suffered through a variety of health problems, including hearing loss, tinnitus and post traumatic stress disorder, which was recently diagnosed with the help of his wife, Tammy. Kelley also said he has problems with his equilibrium, making it difficult for him to ride a bike, run or exercise in general.
“I’ll ride a bike for a quarter mile and get a little wobbly,” he said. “Anything that requires a lot of balance I struggle with. It’s hard to walk in a straight line.”
Many of these factors, Kelley said, have contributed to him becoming overweight and having high cholesterol.
“I need to get my health back under control,” he said. “I don’t want to develop diabetes and
In Kelley’s opinion, getting back on the path toward better health wasn’t possible until Thursday when he was awarded a special tricycle by the Lest We Forget Our Vets organization during a Lest We Forget monthly meeting in Benton Harbor.
The “Tryke” has three wheels and is powered by either the arms or the legs while a person is sitting down.
About 30 Trykes have been presented to veterans in southwest and western Michigan, including three in the Niles area. Veterans and Lest We Forget members Dale Hurt and Alvin Cavanaugh also have them.
“The purpose of the whole thing is to promote exercise and get around — to increase their mobility,” said Don Alsbro, president and founder of Lest We Forget, a Benton Harbor based organization dedicated to promoting patriotism. “It’s really a great thing for them.”
Kelley, a 1987 Niles High graduate, said the Tryke will finally give him a safe and comfortable way to exercise.
“This is just perfect because I can do it without worrying about tipping over,” he said. “I owe a lot to (Lest We Forget) — possibly my life — with the way my health is going,” he said. “It’s fun to drive too.”
Kelley said the Lest We Forget organization put him in touch with the Lest We Forget Our Vets organization, which is based out of Kalamazoo. Lest We Forget Our Vets has the Tryke program.