Thomas Galle was getting desperate.
The WWII veteran could barely get around. He could barely walk 20 feet. He needed a wheelchair and he needed one right away.
So his daughter called Catalino Aguda.
Two years ago, Aguda had started an initiative to connect veterans in need with power wheelchairs or scooters -- a seemingly simple need but one that can drastically change a disabled veteran's quality of life.
Never miss a local story.
Not even five hours had elapsed since Galle's phone call before her phone rang again.
It was Lennie Latham Thomas, whose father, Elton Thomas, also a WWII veteran, had recently passed away. His dying wish was to have his motorized, almost new, wheelchair donated to a fellow veteran.
Latham Thomas called Team Adaptive in Biloxi, who put her in touch with Aguda.
Last week, Team Adaptive
staff lent their time to move the lift from Thomas' vehicle to Galle's and the $7,000 donation was complete.
In explanation, Aguda, a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, pointed to an inscription on his vest.
"Vets helping vets," he said. "That's what we're all about."
The local branch of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, made up completely of volunteers on the Coast, is involved in several projects to benefit veterans. They participate in Veterans Day parades. They try to replace worn or tattered flags when they see one. They provide a procession for funerals of veterans who die without family to provide a service.
With more than 40,000 veterans on the Gulf Coast, they stay busy.
And two years ago, Aguda began his wheelchair project to fill what he said was a major need.
"I knew a bunch of people who had them in garages and sheds, not doing anything. So I said 'why don't you donate that?'" he said. "A lot of vets, they're told to get around on crutches. It's not right."
In the past two years Aguda has facilitated the donation of 90 wheelchairs and scooters worth about $250,000.
Some are in good condition. Others need batteries or other minor adjustments.
"We do what we can to raise money but could definitely use support of Gulf Coast," he said. "And we want to say thank you for donating."