Disabled Marine vet gets support, and a new ride

Sharon Schuler Kreps

Photo: (l-r) John O’Malley, Josh Speakman, Jeremy Hogan, Ed Smith, Trent Winstead and Chris Gill. Seated: Jack Stevens

I wish I could have taken daily pictures of him just to watch and see how he went from such a red-faced, distressed, lost Marine to somebody that actually feels like he’s got a life to live! He now has goals for his life and he has somebody that is supporting him.”
Jeremy Hogan


CULLMAN – On Thursday, members of Saving Forgotten Warriors (SFW), The Marine Corps League and Mitch Smith Chevrolet presented a gently used 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe to a local disabled Marine veteran, Trent Winstead. It was a day where lots of planning and hard work finally paid off. The Tahoe will change Trent’s life for the better in so many ways, but best of all it will offer him the freedom and the ability to go wherever he needs to go. He plans to use it to continue his education and help other veterans along with the SFW.

Winstead joined the Marines right out of high school and was sent to boot camp and School of Infantry training. After that was completed he went into the fleet and was deployed to Afghanistan.  Within three to four months of being deployed he stepped on a land mine and lost his right leg and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was only 18 years old.

Winstead was sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where he was treated for his injuries. Then he was transported to Texas where he spent the next two years in intense therapy before coming back home to Cullman.

Sadly, he came home to a broken family and he had no support whatsoever. He struggled to make ends meet. He was frustrated with the VA; his prosthetic was broken. His life was in chaos.

On Feb. 6, 2016 Winstead moved in with Jeremy Hogan and his wife Julie, after working with the SFW organization for only one week. He had some drug issues and was suicidal the day he moved into their home.

“Since he has been with us, Trent has cleaned himself up, gained about 25 pounds and has started back to school,” said Jeremy Hogan, founder and CEO of SFW. “These veterans’ organizations have teamed up and gotten him a vehicle, and we are working on a housing grant for him. We should be getting a determination on that any day now,” he smiled.

“He has completely changed his life around,” Hogan said. “From the get-go I have been able to watch him. I wish I could have taken daily pictures of him just to watch and see how he went from such a red-faced, distressed, lost Marine to somebody that actually feels like he’s got a life to live! He now has goals for his life and he has somebody that is supporting him.”

Winstead went from zero support to having support from people all over Cullman and beyond. The Tahoe comes from many people who appreciate his dedication and service to the United States. His sacrifice is one most cannot even imagine.

 “I’m so glad for him,” said Jack Stevens, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam. “I am happy, happy, happy,” he smiled as he looked at Winstead. “He really deserves it.

“I bought my new truck a week before I heard they were looking for a vehicle for Trent,” said Stevens, who originally owned the Tahoe for 15 years. “I would have just given it to him if I had known,” he chuckled. “But the dealership had given me a pretty good trade in amount, so I went ahead and traded it in. Then a day or two afterwards, I found out about Trent,” he grinned. “But I think it really worked out for the best though.”

Hogan found out about the Tahoe while visiting Stevens and helping him with a VA claim. When he heard about the trade-in, he called Samuel Tucker at Mitch Smith Chevrolet.

“I asked Samuel if he would talk to the general manager and see if the dealership might possibly sell us the Tahoe for the $3,000 they allowed Jack on the trade in,” said Hogan. “Or possibly even donate it to us.”

From there Hogan contacted John O’Malley of the Marine Corps League and Ed Smith, commandant of the Marine Corps League in Birmingham; whom Jeremy had already been working with to find Winstead a vehicle.

“They jumped on it,” said Hogan. “They had money that had just come in to use. Tom Krebs, who is also a member of the Marine Corps League, knows Roy Drinkard, so he called Mr. Drinkard and told him about the Tahoe and asked him if he would be interested in helping us get it fixed up and ready to go,” he smiled. “Everything just fell into place and today they are presenting the vehicle to Trent – two days after his 25th birthday!”

Even though the Tahoe was presented to Winstead on Thursday, he won’t be able to drive off in it just yet. There still needs to be a few things done to it first, but come Aug. 8 everything will be ready and good to go!

“It needed some repairs, so Mitch Smith Chevrolet offered to do all of the repairs plus they are going to put a new set of tires on it so when he gets it, everything will be pretty much taken care of,” said Hogan.

“Right now Trent’s driver’s license states he needs a left gas pedal, so they are going to go in and put a plate in and add a left gas pedal,” he added. “The VA will actually do the adaptability to it, and once that is complete, he’ll have a lifetime warranty on the drive train.”

“We will bend over backwards to help a Marine,” said Paul Schaffer, Mitch Smith’s general manager. “We will do whatever we can do. When they first called and told me the situation, I was more than happy to help out. We’ll always stand out and do what we need to do to help our veterans.”

“We are honored to help Jeremy and Trent today,” said Ed Smith, commandant of the Marine Corps League / Lt. General Victor “Brute” Krulak Detachment. “Trent, being a combat veteran, it’s an honor to be able to help him get his life back in order, to get him back in school and in assisting him in any way we can.”

It was a great day to honor a veteran, and Winstead was the perfect pick for the Tahoe. We would like to thank Winstead for his service.

“I will never be able to fully express my gratitude,” Winstead grinned as he held the keys to his new vehicle and looked over his new ride.

We will never be able to fully express our gratitude for all you have done to serve and protect our country, Trent!

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