Michael Sulsona was waiting two years for the Veterans Administration (VA) to replace his rickety old wheelchair. The former United States Marine lost both his legs in 1971 when he stepped on a land mine while serving in Vietnam. He has lived his life in a wheelchair ever since.
But the VA told him he wasn’t entitled to a spare one, he says. And the bureaucracy in the troubled agency made him wait two years for a new one.
So it was a disaster when Sulsona, of Staten Island, New York, was shopping on July 7 in a Lowe’s Home Improvement Center store in the Mariners Harbor neighborhood of Staten Island. His wheelchair broke down and fell apart.
What happened next quickly became a viral story online, and you’ll easily understand why. We’ll let Sulsona tell the story in his own words, in the form of a letter he wrote to the Staten Island Advance newspaper, which the paper published last Friday.
But there is an update to this incident, so keep reading even after Sulsona tells his touching story.
Three employees, David, Marcus and Souleyman jumped to my assistance immediately. They placed me in another chair while they went to work.
They took the wheelchair apart and replaced the broken parts and told me, “We’re going to make this chair like new.”
I left 45 minutes after closing hours in my wheelchair that was like new.
I kept thanking them and all they could say was, “It was our honor.”
The actions of these three employees at Lowe’s showed me there are some who still believe in stepping to the plate.
They didn’t ask any questions, didn’t feel the need to fill out any forms or make phone calls. Someone needed help and they felt privileged to be given the opportunity.
“Lowe’s is fortunate that these guys are working for them,” Sulsona later told the Advance. The wounded Marine described the three men as “soldiers of good will.” He and his wife later went back to the Lowe’s with home-baked cookies for the men who stayed after hours to make sure he had a “like new” wheelchair.
But fortunately, that’s not even the end of the story. After hearing about the incident, the VA finally sprung into action. On Tuesday of this week, a shiny, brand-new wheelchair arrived at Sulsona’s home, courtesy of the VA.
“It’s incredible,” said Sulsona. “It’s like getting into a new car. You feel it — everything is tight and secure.”
But Sulsona, while grateful for the chair, remained irritated at the two-year-delay in getting the VA to act, and gave credit for the new chair to the same Lowe’s workers.
“This whole story is based around three good guys,” Sulsona told the Advance. “I think it’s really important that we all be like these people who wanted to help me. Things would be so much easier.”
The VA, however, promised Sulsona that this time, the agency itself would service the wheelchair when it needed fixing.