Wounded servicemembers get new Segways

Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Knowles leads a group of new Segway owners away from the Iwo Jima Memorial and toward downtown Rosslyn, Va.


By JOE GROMELSKI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 14, 2009

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Thirty-nine more Segways were given to wounded warriors Thursday during a ceremony at the Iwo Jima Memorial, bringing to 340 the number of the personal transporters turned over through the Segs4Vets program of Disabilities Rights Advocates for Technology.

Of the 39 recipients, 38 were wounded while on active duty with the Army, Marine Corps, Army National Guard and Air Force. The other went to a civilian, Louis "Webb" Mason of the Army Corps of Engineers, who lost an arm and suffered severe leg wounds in a rocket attack in Afghanistan on his 56th birthday.

DRAFT's Segway program is financed solely through private donations, and the effort is definitely appreciated by the recipients.

"It's been a tremendous boon for my quality of life," said retired Staff Sgt. Dale Beatty of the North Carolina National Guard, who got his Segway last year and was on hand Thursday to help the new owners get used to their new means of mobility.

"It definitely increases my range as a bilateral amputee," Beatty said. "It's more conducive to good health than a wheelchair. It just lets me get out and play with my kids, go for long distances, whereas walking long distances, as any amputee knows, you've just got to sit down and take a break. Kids don't give you breaks."

Among the organizations supporting the effort is the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, which funds the Segways given to Marines and sailors. And the Corps was represented at the ceremony by one of most distinguished members, Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient Col. Harvey C. "Barney" Barnum.

"Sometimes we have to draw a line in the sand and take on those who don't think the way we do," Barnum told the recipients. "And you did that, and you paid a huge price — loss of limb, pain, blood, putting your family through some tough times. But you know what? Anything worth living for is worth fighting for. We live in the greatest country in the world, and you have helped make it remain that way."

Army Spc. Keith Maul of Pennsylvania gets a round of applause as he rides a new Segway.

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