NO MORE STUCK IN THE MUD: Veteran Wilbur Clifton Gets a New Tracked Chair from the Hotes Foundation
He’s had neighbors pull him out with tractors and his wife winch him out of the backyard with their Chevy Blazer. Four times, veteran Wilbur Clifton has been stranded, his conventional wheelchair stuck in the mud with no one around to help for hours. “Once, I got stuck right off the driveway,” he said, “I got in a hole in the pasture and all I did was sit there and spin. I sat there for two hours until a UPS man came along and got me out.”
And this is a veteran talking, a hero.
Wilbur Clifton, 66, a veteran of the Vietnam War, served three tours of duty between 1967 and 1969 as a light weapons infantry advisor to the South Vietnamese. Home after his third deployment, he was involved in a car accident and suffered a T-7 spinal cord injury. Since then, Wilbur has had limited movement of his legs and been confined to a wheelchair.
At the Hotes Foundation, we believe serious injury shouldn’t stop our veterans from living the full, rewarding lives they deserve. That’s why last month three of our volunteers made the trip to Wilbur’s home in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. In the bed of the delivery truck was a brand new track chair.
Two of the volunteers, sisters Roxanne and Alex Arciniega, 12 and 17 respectively, are daughters of an Army veteran themselves, their father, Vito Arciniega. Along with Michael Feeser, the sisters felt it important to volunteer to drop off Wilbur’s track chair and honor Wilbur’s service. It was one of five deliveries they would make across four states in two days. As the girls showed Wilbur the controls he was all smiles. “Now I can go in the yard and be with my granddaughter and play,” he told them. “I can hunt. With this thing, I can go most anywhere. I can go out in the woods.”
It’s been 20 years since Wilbur has been able to go off-road and not worry about getting stuck, 20 years since he's felt free in the great outdoors. That day in the field, waiting for someone—anyone—to come along was a low point for Wilbur, and not something he or his wife wants to have repeated. With his specially engineered track chair, that won’t be a problem. “It feels really great,” he says. “It’s some chair. It will really make my life more pleasurable having this.”
Wilbur’s new track chair is just one of the 100 the Hotes Foundation is delivering, everyone of them designed to give veterans like Wilbur the chance to enjoy the outdoors again.
From all of us at the Hotes Foundation, we want to say thank you to Roxanne and Alex for their hard work delivering these chairs, and especially to Wilbur for his service. Wilbur, we hope your new track chair puts your mind at ease and gives you back a sense of freedom and the mobility you deserve.