Veteran gets his life back
Donation to a Mosinee amputee lets him do what he loves
By Jared Raney, reporter
It was October 10, 2007 when five rockets dropped into the ‘safe-zone’ where Dale Cherney was stationed.
On his third tour in Iraq, Dale, of Mosinee, was supposed to be out of the line of fire.
That day he lost half a leg, his spleen, his left eye and suffered brain trauma.
“Supposedly it’s safe,” Dale said of Camp Liberty, his station in Baghdad. “It’s safe-ish… Nowhere over there is really safe.”
Eight years later, after three long years of exhaustive physical rehabilitation and many more adjusting to his disabilities, Dale can walk and carry a conversation—but he can’t hunt, can’t walk through the woods, nor many other things he used to love.
Upon medical retirement, he was awarded a promotion to E7 rank, Sergeant First Class, just a step below Master Sergeant, for his service and sacrifice. But that honor didn’t get him back what he had lost.
“I’m functional, but not great,” Dale said. “I know my limits… Any rough areas, I can’t go near.”
Nearly as bad as losing his leg, Dale said, was losing his spleen—the recovery of which left him unable to lift more than about 40 pounds.
For a lifelong hunter, ice fisher and owner of a 10-acre property, his inability over the past eight years to get out and do what he loves—to even take a walk in the woods he sees every day—has added to the PTSD he suffers from. Dale still has trouble talking about his loss.
“I’m doing really good today,” Dale said to press after the presentation Tuesday. “Normally I’m very anti-social.”
But sitting in his new chair, an Action Trackchair, donated by the Independance fund, Dale couldn’t stop smiling.
“I’m very excited, because this year I can actually get out, drive this to someplace [to hunt],” he said. “This thing can actually pull a deer too, so if I catch a deer I can pull the deer back.”
The chair is a heavy-duty, all-terrain wheelchair, though calling it a wheelchair may be a stretch, because instead of wheels it has snowmobile-like treads that can power through brush and over logs, giving someone like Dale the ability go practically anywhere.
For someone suffering PTSD, the ability to get back, even a small degree, of his old life is a priceless gift. As Dale powered the Trackchair, faster than he could walk on his own, through the National Guard Armory where the presentation was held, his joy was palpable.
“We definitely want to get the word out that there’s help,” said Kelly Schneider, representative of Action Trackchairs, who presented the chair to Dale. “There’s a fund out there that wants to help these guys get back to their lives, and we’re just lucky to be one of the products that work with the vets.”
The Independance Fund is geared toward helping veterans with “physical and emotional healing.” The donation-based fund, among other things, started an initiative that has “provided more than 500 all-terrain wheelchairs to severly injured veterans,” which can cost around $16,000 each, according to their website.
Applications for the all-terrain wheelchairs and other Independance Fund programs can by found online, and AmVet Post 724, who helped facilitate the presentation of Dale’s chair, are available for assistance.
As for Dale, he’s looking forward to taking down a deer next fall, and some nice long rolls through the forest, for the first time in eight years.