BOLC Builds Ramp for Disabled Veteran

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Lieutenants from the Basic Officer Leadership Course joined members of the community Saturday to make home life a little easier for a wounded Warrior in Petersburg.

Sgt. Andre Knight, a combat engineer with the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., lost his legs as a result of an improvised explosive device in Iraq May 2007. He’s able to walk with the use of prosthetics, but sometimes uses a wheelchair.

Ginger Hawks, ElderHomes coordinator, heard about Knight and organized a project to build a ramp with the volunteer efforts of Pete Adler, Army Logistics Management College strategic planner; Capt. Peter Caggiano, BOLC instructor; and others from the Chester Rotary Club and Grace Lutheran Church in Chester.

“Our motto is ‘neighbor helping neighbor,’” Hawks said, “but I saw this as ‘Soldier helping Soldier,’ and I asked Pete to supervise the project.”

The project represents the 11th ramp Adler has built for area people in need, but it’s the first ramp he’s constructed for a wounded Warrior. His Rotary Club had already provided a gas card for Knight’s mother to travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve got 25 years in the Army, and there’s always the brotherhood of arms, and in our Rotary there’s a lot retired military,” Adler said.

Caggiano has also done several projects with other BOLC students to do minor home repairs or yard work in the local community.

“When this opportunity with Sgt. Knight came about, it compelled a lot of people to come out and help,” Caggiano said. “It hits home with a lot of these lieutenants, because most of them will go into harm’s way, and this may be the first time they’ve ever interacted with someone who’s an amputee.”

Caggiano assisted in building the platform and railings the day prior to the main community project. In addition to helping out a fellow Soldier, Caggiano said he hopes the project instills in the lieutenants a sense that loyalty to country is not limited to what happens on the battlefield.

“It also means giving something back to the community, and they don’t get that opportunity at any other point in their training. So during the weekends, we encourage them to come and help out,” he said.

When Caggiano learned about the opportunity to assist a wounded Warrior, he put the call out to the lieutenants and about 15 were prepared to pick up a hammer, drill holes and cut wood, but only five were selected for the project.

Second Lt. Cory Newell, BOLC student, said his sense of loyalty compelled him to assist though he had no carpentry skills.

“I wanted to do something charitable,” Newell said. “I’ve had this need to give something back, because I’ve had so much good luck and here’s someone who’s had something horrible happen.”

Newell said he was intimidated when he finally saw Knight make an appearance as community members hammered and drilled the ramp together.

“It was the first time I ever met anybody who was a casualty from over there (in Iraq),” Newell said. “You hear about it all the time but until you see it with your own two eyes, it’s just images on a screen or words on paper. And if it happened to him, it can happen to me.”

Knight said he was overwhelmed with the number of people who contributed to the project.

“It’s more than what I needed. It’s like they are giving me the works. It’s good stuff,” Knight said.

Vivienne Wicks, Knight’s mother, said she was pleased to see how the community has supported her and her son without even asking for it, but to see Soldiers in her back yard building a ramp made it special.

“It means everything (that Soldiers are helping),” Wicks said. “The Army is important in Andre’s recovery. It’s how he gets better because he’s a Soldier.”