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Grammer Industries raises funds supporting spinal injury rehab for military personnel

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A Bartholomew County transportation company has unveiled an eye-catching promotional vehicle in conjunction with a $250,000 campaign to help injured men and women from the U.S. Armed Forces.

Grammer Industries introduced its Wounded Warrior tractor and tank trailer at the Mid-America Trucking show in Louisville in March.

The white trailer features a soldier carrying a fallen comrade against the backdrop of an American flag and is emblazoned with the words “Honor & Empower Our Wounded Warriors.”

The tractor also pays tribute to the American flag.

The bottom is blue with white stars and the top features red and white stripes.

The truck is sent to various events seeking donations to help the Wounded Warriors Project and specifically the SHARE military project at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

The Shepherd Center is a spinal cord and brain rehabilitation center that dedicates part of its facility to treating wounded U.S. servicemen and servicewomen.

Grammer Industries founder and CEO Charles “Shorty” Whittington learned about the work being done at the Shepherd Center after the son of the company’s fleet services manager suffered a spinal cord injury.

“His treatment and recovery there was just amazing,” Whittington said. “It’s an unbelievable place with only

32 beds and they specialize in spinal cord injuries. They have now dedicated (a certain number of) beds to work with wounded warriors, but the funding is not there.”

Fleet Services Manager Scott McKeand, who has been the driving force behind the campaign, becomes emotional when describing his son in such a helpless state and of the relief he feels today.

“Five years ago on Memorial Day weekend my youngest son, Bill, was in Pensacola and was in a diving accident, and for rehabilitation we moved him to the Shepherd Center,” McKeand said. “At that time he was paralyzed from the neck down and we fed him like a baby, but after two months at the Shepherd Center and as of today, he is probably 95 percent as good as the rest of us are.”

Bill McKeand, now 29, walks with a slight limp and has some difficulty gripping things but has otherwise made a complete recovery.

After spending time at the facility and seeing the work that was done there and the special initiative for men and women in the military, Whittington knew Grammer Industries wanted to help.

He agreed to raise the money for the Wounded Warrior Project with the understanding that it would be donated to the SHARE Military Initiative at the Shepherd Center.

So far, the company’s fundraising effort, which was launched March 27, has raised more than $100,000.

Whittington said the Wounded Warrior trailer cost about $300,000 and gives credit to sponsors, including Cummins, Peterbilt and Mississippi Tank Co. (MTC) with helping to defray the expense.

“A lot of vendors want to help and they can’t write a check, but they can give an in-kind donation,” Whittington said. “We take the money we would have paid for that and put it in the pot.”

In April, Grammer displayed the truck in Atlanta and Whittington got to meet some of the people the donation will help.

“One woman, a Marine, was just so grateful, but she dedicated a lot of her life to make us free, so we look at it as our way of thanking her,” Whittington said.

It’s not the first time Grammer Industries has decorated a trailer in support of a cause.

In 2010, the company added a bright pink breast cancer awareness trailer to its fleet. A portion of the sales from the propane pumped through the trailer was contributed to the American Breast Cancer Foundation’s “Fuel for Hope” campaign.

McKeand and Joey Runnels, a MTC sales representative, came up with the idea and Whittington suggested pink trailers. MTC actually built two of the pink trailers and the other was sold to a Virginia company.

“I just didn’t know if a truck driver would want to pull a pink trailer,” Whittington said. “We use a lot of owner operators along with company drivers, but when we put it together the response was just unbelievable. We still get phone calls and cards from people talking about how impressed they are with it.”

McKeand, who has been with Grammer since 1988, said the response to the Wounded Warriors trailer also has been overwhelming.

When returning from Canton, Ohio, McKeand said a driver’s fascination bordered on dangerous.

“He passed me on the driver’s side, crossed over in front of me, then slowed down and went clear down the passenger side and back up the driver’s side, taking a video,” McKeand said. “It’s been amazing, the response we get just driving down the road.”

John Roxland, senior major and planning gifts officer for the Shepherd Center Foundation, said the SHARE Military Initiative treats between 40 and 50 patients per year. Military insurance, he says, covers less than half of the cost.

“The patient numbers fluctuate depending on how long they are in the program, but a gift of $250,000 is an incredible amount and a couple months worth of funding for the program, so we are very appreciative,” Roxland said. “It’s that kind of support that has enabled us to sustain this program over the past six years and going into the future.”

The Wounded Warrior truck and tanker will not be put into service right away because Grammer has received a lot of requests to showcase it, but in the fall it will become part of the fleet.

The truck will be at the FairOaks Mall in June for the WKKG Truck Show and 4H Fashion Revue, and in Celina, Ohio, for that city’s Independence Day celebration.

“We’re trying to let it be and it doesn’t have any LP gas in it, but it’s a pretty sizable investment to just display,” Whittington said. “But we believe if we give this we will receive so much back from a personal standpoint.”

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