Robert Thrailkill, Jr. has spent the majority of the past 25 months in a rehabilitation center in Bethesda, Maryland. He remembers exactly what happened on October 26, 2010. He was serving as a Marine combat engineer in Afghanistan. He was checking buildings that day.
“I was investigating a little pile of dirt,” Robert told FOX 17 in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “And when I knelt down and uncovered it, I found an IED right there and then went I went to stand back up and I turned to my left, I triggered – what I believe to be – a secondary. And that’s when I got blown up.”
Robert lost both his legs in the explosion. He’s been rehabbing in the DC area ever since.
He moves back to his homestate on December 2. He’ll be joining the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, an adaptive hockey team.
But to get where he needs to go when he’s back home, Robert needs a truck.
He was back for a visit earlier this fall and stopped into Borgman Ford-Mazda in Grandville. That’s where he met sales manager Scott Gibbons.
“I was inspired by how upbeat he was,” Scott says.
Robert decided on the new Ford F-150 Lariat pick-up. With the added features to help Robert work the truck properly, the sticker price is $52,000.
But that’s not the final cost.
The truck will need steering and gas/brake adjustments for Robert to use it. On top of that a lift for Robert’s wheelchair is getting installed in the truck bed.
“When the lift comes out, a cable comes down that Robert’s gonna hook to his wheelchair,” Scott says. “He’s then going to wheel forward, pull himself into the vehicle, hit a button, and the lift is going to pull the wheelchair back, lift it up, and move it into the cab.”
All that is another $15,000.
Robert says it’s worth it.
“With this truck and everything that’s gonna be there, it’s gonna help me out,” he says. “I can go anywhere I want to and not feel out of place and not have to have someone help me struggle.”
But Scott doesn’t want a man who lost so much fighting for freedom to have to shell out almost $70,000 for his new truck.
“The kid did something to me, and I wanna help him out,” he says.
Scott is working with the Semper Fi Fund to raise money to cover all the costs of the new truck. He says they’re about $30,000 away from paying for the truck.
Robert can’t believe the amount of good people are willing to do for him.
“It makes me feel better about everything,” he says. “I know that anywhere I go, there’s always gonna be someone that wants to help me. I might not even know who that person is, but they have so much respect for any military member and wounded warrior out there. They’ll do anything that they can possibly to help me out with anything I need. And it means a lot to me.”
So what happens if Robert Thrailkill gets a new pick-up and an easier way of life all thanks to the kindness of strangers?
“It’s one of those moments where you’re so thankful and you’re so grateful for everything, you’re in awe,” Robert says. “To have everybody help me out like that, it would mean the world to me.”
“If we can get him this truck and work for him that hard after what he did for us,” Scott says, “I can’t imagine there’ll be a dry eye in the place.”
“I know mine won’t be.”
Donations can be given at Borgman Ford-Mazda at 3150 28th Street SW in Grandville. Donors can also give in Robert’s name at the Semper Fi Fund website.