Success Story: Carlos

Carlos is a strong, proud man–proud of his wife and two children, proud of his job with the St. Petersburg Police Department, and proud to serve his country in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  Carlos is an Army reservist who was called away from his family and his job to serve his country for two separate tours of duty, totaling 2 1/2 years.  During his service, he suffered a gunshot wound to his arm and partial hearing loss from an IED that exploded too close for comfort.  Yet Carlos returned to his family and his job with his positive outlook and his sense of humor intact.  Carlos has been receiving medical treatments from the Department of Veterans Affairs and says, “The V.A. has been taking very, very good care of me.”

Because the family is on a tight budget, they have been sharing one vehicle, a 1993 Geo Tracker, which is in serious need of repairs:  the oil is leaking, the windshield is broken, there is no air conditioning, the canvas roof leaks when it rains, and the tires need to be replaced.  Carlos tried to get a loan for another car, but because of some credit problems, he was not successful.  Frustrated, Carlos felt his sunny disposition starting to fade.

At a recent visit to the V.A., Carlos was asked if there was any other assistance the V.A. could offer to him.  He jokingly said, “Sure!  Can you help me get a car?”  He was astounded when he was told that yes, they might be able to help him do just that–and he was told about the new Vehicles for Veterans program offered through Wheels of Success.  He said he immediately “saw light at the end of the tunnel and knew his future was looking bright.”

Now Carlos is smiling again.  This week, he will be one of three recipients of vehicles being presented at Wheels of Success’s Biggest Aquarian Birthday Bash, and the second veteran to be awarded a car through WOS’s Vehicles for Veterans program.

Carlos is delighted with all the V.A. has done for him and is also very grateful to Wheels of Success.  Carlos’s new-to-him car will provide much-needed reliable transportation for him to get to work, to his V.A. appointments and to St. Pete College, where he is currently studying for his degree in Criminal Justice.  With WOS’s help, Carlos is on the road to achieving his goal of “getting out from behind a desk and working as a law enforcement officer out on the street” where he believes he can make a real difference in his community.

We kicked off the program Vehicles for Veterans with a partnership with State Farm Insurance.  Then we approached the Rotary Club of Tampa, who gave us a grant to continue the program for three additional vehicles.  Carlos is the first recipient to benefit from the Rotary Club grant.  We are collaborating with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other veteran organizations to help select future recipients.  We are hoping to receive more funding so that we can expand the Vehicles for Veterans program to one vehicle every month.