VENICE, Fla. — A former U.S. Marine who lost his truck while helping family and friends in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian received the gift of new wheels this holiday season.
Kirk Wildasin, 48, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1992 to 2001. During that time, he was hand-selected to be assigned to HMX-1 Security Detail, which was the presidential helicopter squadron charged with protecting Marine One and the president of the United States. This included Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for a short time. He now works for Taylor Morrison Homes.
When Hurricane Ian battered the southwest coast of Florida in late September, Wildasin spent time helping friends and family in the wake of the storm that left behind miles of devastation. It was then that a crash totaled his truck.
Wildasin helped with chopping trees that fell into driveways, trapping families in homes. Once one home was clear, he'd move on to the next one, the news release said. The work was so intense his chainsaw dulled. He went to an equipment store to buy a new chain but on the way home, his 1999 Chevy Tahoe he used to drag trees to the side of the road was T-boned by another car. His airbags deployed, leaving him with minor injuries — he's still currently in physical therapy.
The veteran's insurance company said the truck was irreparable and the amount they offered was not enough to purchase a new car.
This holiday season, Gettel Automotive Group reached out to a volunteer with Homes for Our Troops, Jim Kehoe, to help find a candidate for the planned car donation. Kehoe was able to link them with Goodwill Manasota and SRQ Vets where Wildasin serves as an active board member.
On Friday, Dec. 9, Wildasin received a 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE.
Through the surprise donation, Gettel Automotive Group is covering the costs of Wildasin's car registration. Goodwill Manasota offered to pay for his car insurance from its Special Emergency Resources for Veterans (SERV) fund, but Wildasin insisted the group save the funds for another veteran in need.
"An opportunity like this could not have happened at a better time and I am extremely grateful to even be considered to receive this vehicle," Wildasin said in a news release. "A great big thank you to Gettel Automotive Group and the company’s families for making this possible – I honestly still can’t believe that this is happening!"
During the presentation, Gettel Automotive Group CEP Jim Gettel thanked Wildasin for his service.
"Veterans too often go unrecognized," he added. "This is the giving season – it's the perfect time to give back."