Charity as therapy for wounded veterans

December 24, 2009 9:56:50 PM PST
We're going to show you Operation Comfort, a special mission for some local sports car enthusiasts. However, they are far much than just car lovers, they are American heroes. The Texas Cobra Club takes pride in their cars. Many of them were built from scratch.

"It's the finest sports car ever made in the United States. In the world," said Houston Cobra Club member Bill Swendsen.

On this day, members from Houston, joined their counterparts from across the state in San Antonio. They are gearing up for a special mission.

"We just kind of adopted it. It's a great cause and we all have a common interest in cars," Swendson said.

They're coming to Lonesome Dove Ranch in Elmendorf, Texas, delivering a sort of medicine to a group of soldiers at an unlikely hospital.

Trailers full of car parts and shop tools are emptied at the ranch, along with a replica 1965 Shelby Cobra kit. The pieces are to be assembled here by wounded servicemen from Brooks Army Medical Center.

"You can just turn a wrench or hop in a car and just you're in your own separate world. Away from everything," said Staff Sergeant Nick McCoy

He lost both legs in Iraq three years ago when his patrol unit came under attack.

"I was always the tough sergeant, well what am I supposed to do now?" McCoy said.

Those haunting questions followed McCoy to San Antonio. It was here at the ranch that he developed a love for cars through a program called "Automotivation" organized by Operation Comfort. It offers young guys like McCoy a place to shift focus away from the past and move forward.

"I could either be at the hospital-getting tortured through physical therapy, or I could be put here working on cars, making the same progress physically," said McCoy said.

Former Marine Jared Nelson survived a vehicle rollover accident in Iraq last year.

"One day I just went into the auto body shop and started working and caught the bug," Nelson said.

Now, he comes to the ranch five days a week.

"You're always concentrating on what's wrong with you and how you're not the same person anymore. But when you come out here, you get to work on cars and you start taking control of your life again," said Nelson.

That control and a newfound pride shines through their polished products.

"That really makes it worthwhile to us, to be able to make a difference in this way, to return the favor to people who have sacrificed so much," said Brian Alexander of Lone Star Classics.

For Operation Comfort, that is the objective - getting these soldiers back in the driver's seat and on the road to recovery.

"You're not fighting a battle by yourself anymore, now you're fighting a battle with your friends," said Nelson.

Once the Cobra is complete, the guys will take it to a competition in Las Vegas where it will be auctioned off. The money earned will go back to Operation Comfort, their program at the ranch.


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