Injured Marine is behind the wheel of dream truck

October 7th, 2011

By Suzanne Laurent | Eagle Tribune | Eagletribune.com | October 7, 2011

LONDONDERRY — Marine Cpl. Charles Donnelly picked up his dream truck yesterday — a F250 Super Duty — and it will be sporting Purple Heart plates.

It was delivered to Donnelly during a presentation at Ride-Away in Londonderry.

Donnelly, 26, was injured May 13 when he stepped on an improvised explosive devise, or IED, while on patrol with the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The explosion resulted in the amputation of his left leg, below the knee.

Donnelly received a check for $10,000 from the Semper Fi Fund and an auto grant from the Veterans Administration for $18,900. He added some of his own money to pay for the 2009 truck, which cost $36,000.

"It's been my dream to own this kind of truck since I was little," the Merrimack resident said.

Donnelly joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2008 and began training at Parris Island, N.C.. He then received combat and reconnaissance training in California before heading to Afghanistan.

The day of the explosion, Donnelly was on patrol, going from door to door in Sagnin in Helmand Province.

"There was no one in the first building and I backtracked my steps to the guard who was on rear security," Donnelly said. " (The guard) stepped aside and I stepped into the same spot and the IED went off."

No one else was injured in the explosion.

Donnelly came back to the United States May 17 to Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was transferred to Walter Reed Hospital and then back to Bethesda in August when Walter Reed closed. He has been fitted with a prosthesis that he is still adjusting to.

"I'm still on active duty until my rehabilitation is over," Donnelly said. "That's in about six months."

He will be driving his new truck back to Bethesda next week with his wife of a year and a half, Kerry. Kerry Donnelly is on family medical leave from her position as an exercise physiologist at St. Joseph's Hospital in Nashua.

The white truck was purchased by Ride-Away from Rodman Ford in Foxboro.

"We were approached by the Help Our Military Heroes program," said Dave Qualey, mobility consultant for Ride-Away. "We often get calls from them as we work to help adapt vehicles for people with disabilities."

Donnelly's truck did not need to be adapted as it was his left leg and foot that were amputated.

"We did get a three-year free extended warranty from Rodman," Qualey said.

Qualey is a Marine veteran as is Michael Wagner at Rodman.

"I really wanted to help out," he said. "A lot of times, injured veterans bring the form for the grant to car dealers and they don't want to take them. I'm not saying Mike (Wagner) wouldn't, but it was easier to bring the car up here for Chuck."

Mark Lore, owner of Ride-Away, said his company has helped 15 to 20 injured soldiers on the East Coast in the past year.

Lore, a Bruins season ticket holder, stayed until after 6 p.m. last night to make sure Donnelly received the truck, knowing he would probably miss the 7 p.m. start of the game and the raising of the 2011 Stanley Cup banner.

Lore also gave Donnelly four tickets to a Bruins game next month.

Kirt Rebello, eastern regional director of community outreach for Semper Fi, said the organization has donated $53 million to 6,500 soldiers who need assistance with vehicle or home adaptations since 2004.

Donnelly graduated from Suffolk University in 2008 with an art history degree before joining the Marines. He said he doesn't know yet what his plans will be after discharge.

"I'm lucky," Donnelly said. "I still have most of my leg. I'm alive."

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