OKLAHOMA CITY —
During a week in which civilians show their pride in country and its military, the roles were reversed in a storage room in downtown Oklahoma City.
Twenty men and women from Tinker Air Force Base’s 3rd Combat Communications Squad volunteered throughout the morning to a soundtrack of clanking metal and questions like, “Where does this foot go? Can you help me with this knee? Are there any more Allen wrenches?”
The storage room was at Limbs for Life headquarters at 218 E Main St. The nonprofit serves as a financial bridge for those in need of prosthetic limbs. The Tinker volunteers were there to disassemble and organize an ever-growing stock of used prosthetic parts, to be reused for those who receive prosthetics through the program.
“To me, it feels like it kind of broadens our patriotic feel to have them here,” said Pam Timmons, director of development at Limbs for Life.
Tech. Sgt. Herald Tetzlaff organized the volunteer project after seeing Limbs for Life featured on the ABC television series, “Secret Millionaire,” on June 10.
His job was tearing down used prosthetic legs by cutting through the foam housing and unscrewing the metal components.
So, what’s it like taking apart someone’s old leg?
“It is a little odd, but you overlook those little things to see the big picture,” he said. “I have a friend that had a child born with a leg defect. At some point in her life she will be needing prosthetics, most likely. It hits close to home.”
Other Tinker volunteers sat in circles on the floor, unscrewing a number of metal pieces that make up the core of prosthetic legs. Some of the donated items were heavily worn, making it difficult to disassemble them for reuse.
Master Sgt. John Splitter said pulling the pieces apart brought back childhood memories, with an adult twist.
“It is kind of like Legos or an Erector Set,” he said. “It requires a little more forearm work, though.”
Splitter said he’s seen the heartbreak that comes with limb amputation as a result of war.
Many of the volunteers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Knowing these parts could help other service members, as well as civilians, is what made him proud to volunteer.
“We defend America’s freedom, but there’s more to it than going and fighting wars,” he said. “This is being a good citizen, which is part of being a good soldier or good airman. This cause, especially right before our Independence Day, I think for everybody is an important thing.”
Since appearing on national television, Timmons said Limbs for Life has received 75 donations that brought in roughly $20,000, and more parts. That money goes directly toward providing new limbs for those in need, and the parts are used to offset the cost.
The extra attention means more volunteers are needed. That’s why Timmons beamed as the Tinker men and women organized her storage room to near perfection.
“Being military, it makes you feel extra proud,” she said.
Information from: The Oklahoman.