Grandville Car Dealership Paying It Forward For Injured Pentwater Marine

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.

8 comments

  • Veronica Ackerberg

    What an awesome gift for all of us as Americans to be able to help out this Soldier who risked his life and limbs for us…Pay it forward!!! God Bless you Robert…and Merry Christmas, i know you will get your truck!!!!

  • Kelly Hartung

    They were right not a dry eye here..thank you everyone!! It means alot to him and for him to have his independance again..means so much that there isnt a word to describe it.. so thank you again..(Bobby's Mom)

    • Tom Waite

      Kelly, it goes without saying that you should be (and I know you are) so proud of Bobby. It will be great to have him close by and to be able to help him where we can. This is a great thing Borgman is doing for him. He is so excited to get this truck. It will be great to see him driving around in it. Let me know if I can help with anything. Tom W.

  • Laura Kozlowski

    Okay…the Sledwings is NOT a paraplegic hockey team. It is an adaptive hockey team for individuals who otherwise cannot play the sport in a conventional manner. The team has everything from individuals born with spinabifida to bilateral amputees to individuals that have had polio. Bobby is a great asset to the team and a wonderful young man. I thought I would clear that up before coach does…LOL!

      • Laura Kozlowski

        It's Okay Mitch! Most people don't know how to describe it and convey a mental picture. Even then, it is hard for someone to wrap their mind around what it is these athletes do. I guess that is why we encourage anyone curious to stop out at Griff's Ice House any Saturday morning between 9 and 11 am and watch the teams practice. It is amazing. Thanks for doing the article! Bobby ROCKS! Rickie too!

  • Rickie Moneyhun

    I'm one of Bobby's teammates on the Grand Rapids Sled Wings and when I was younger I really wanted to be in the Military (Air Force) but becasue of my Congenital Heart Disease that was never a realistic option. To be able to have a person on my team that was able to serve and the sacrifice he made for this country is an honor, and this story just goes to show that there is still a bit of greatness in this world. Nice work Borgman. Can't wait to see you at practice Bobby!!

  • Kay Soltow

    Please help Bobby's dream come true, He is a great young man, He has come a long way after everything that he has gone through, I have knowing Bobby sense he was a little boy and I’m a good friend of the family, We all wish nothing but the best for you Bobby, So I hope that you get your truck and I hope that I can be there to see it all happen…..Love You Bobby.

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