Singer Makes Injured Seabee's Life Easier

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2007 - After having breakfast with some of her fans in Nashville, Tenn., yesterday, country music singer LeAnn Rimes, as one of her songs says, had absolutely "Nothin' Better to Do" than present a handicap-accessible van to a severely injured veteran.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Reid and his wife, Michele, attended Rimes' fan club breakfast, part of the Country Music Association's annual Music Festival. Little did they suspect the award-winning singer had more than an autographed photo for them.

"We were sitting by the table, and LeAnn Rimes walked up and introduced herself, like we didn't know who she was," Peter said. "She said she had a surprise for us outside."

Waiting for them outside was a Chevrolet Uplander equipped with an automatic door and ramp, and other systems necessary to accommodate Peter's wheelchair. Rimes presented them with the keys, then signed the back window of the vehicle.

The nautical blue vehicle has "all the goodies," Peter said. A Chevrolet representative told the crowd and media gathered for the event that the vehicle had everything Peter needed to ride in comfort.

Peter, a Seebee with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14, was severely injured in May 2004 while serving in Anbar, Iraq. He suffered a severe brain injury, paralysis to the left side of his body and several blood clots caused by shrapnel lodged in his brain from the mortar attack, which killed five fellow Seabees and wounded 34 others.

Previously it took the Reids nearly 30 minutes to get Peter in and out of their other vehicle. This one, donated by General Motors, will cut that time to less than five minutes, Michele said.

"We have been pretty much housebound for the last three years," she said. "Now ... I can open up the doors and have him ride the wheelchair right in. I can strap him down and we can go.

"It's going to make a big difference in our lives," she added.

But first, it was off to treat the people who made this possible - Coalition to Salute America's Heroes officials - to a thank-you lunch, Peter said.

"I told them it's up to them. They can pick any place they want. We got nice transportation, you know," he said with a chuckle. "It's got OnStar, so it's not like we're gonna get lost."

The Reids learned of the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes more than a year ago through the organization's emergency financial relief. They now serve as national spokesmen for the group, which brought Rimes, a supporter of the coalition, and Chevrolet together to present the new vehicle.

"This is what (the coalition) is all about, reintegrating wounded (servicemembers) back into society when they come home," Rimes said in an interview for Chevrolet after the event. "All they want is a chance at a normal life again.

"I kind of feel like no matter where you stand politically, we need to support these men and women coming home from the war," she added.

The coalition, a member of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, provides assistance to veterans wounded and disabled in the global war on terrorism. America Supports You connects citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

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