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New wheels and independence for Iraqi Veteran

7:10 PM, Dec 15, 2011   |    comments
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U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Scott Nicholas tests out his new 2011 Chrysler van equipped to fit his motorized wheelchair.

Tampa, Florida -- A local Iraq War Veteran injured stateside has regained some independence of his own after fighting for the independence of Iraqis eight years ago.

A simple task such as getting into a car is now easier for US Marine Staff Sergeant Scott Nicholas. A motorcycle accident last year left the 36-year-old Iraq War Veteran paralyzed from the shoulders down. Today, Scott received a new van converted to fit his motorized wheelchair.

How does it feel to be in his new vehicle?

"Free. Wonderful and more independent," he said.

Scott's family said they would have to tie him down in their old vehicle that's not made for a wheelchair so he'd be secure. The new van a 2011 Chrysler has been retrofitted by Ride-Away Handicap Equipment Company in Tampa. Scott can roll up the ramp and into the front passenger side and lock in place.

"For clients in wheelchairs we lowered the floor down this one is 14 inches," explained Mike Alfaro with Ride-Away.

Alfaro said the passenger side of the vehicle lowers for easier entry and it's equipped with two batteries. Scott and his family have plenty of room, a DVD player and a navigational system.

"This is how he is going to move around and have a normal life it's the least we can do," said Mike.

"We're talking about someone used to doing everything for himself and now he has to rely on others to do everything for him this will give him a sense of independence," said Yolanda Nicholas, Scott's wife.

Scott has been a Marine for 17 years and said they are his second family.

It's a bond set in March 2003, when Scott and fellow Marines were among the first to push into Iraq during Iraqi Freedom.

The Iraqi vet received his van the same day the U.S. closes the war in Iraq.

"I'm glad we are pulling out, we don't need to be there to die for people that don't want to be there, some do some don't, it's long overdue," said Scott.

Scott's men returned safely in 2003. His experience on the battlefield and as a Marine prepares him for the next chapter in his life, retiring from the Marine Corps.

"It gave me a no quit attitude and the determination to do whatever I want if I put my mind to it, I can get it done, that's what the Marine Corps has instilled in me," Scott said.

Scott's immediate goal is to go back to school and spend more time with his family.

"I want to be an able bodied person again, that's my long-term goal," said Scott.

His wife said she has no doubt Scott will accomplish his goals.

"He's a good upstanding guy that's why I Iove him that's why I support him."

The vehicle and upgrades are made possible through grants from the Semper Fi Fund, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to Sailors and other branches of the military.

Isabel Mascarenas

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