CLIFTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — An Iraq war veteran living with multiple sclerosis is now living a life with more independence after she was given a new technologically advanced wheelchair.
Retired Col. Christine Henderson was watching from the sidelines as teams and individuals took part in the Knights of Columbus tank pull in Clifton, New Jersey, on Sunday. The event is like playing tug-of-war with an Army tank.
“It’s a rush of energy going through you. A lot of fun, a lot of excitement,” Dylan Dowling, a member of the National Guard, told CBS2’s Marc Liverman.
All of the competitions consist of pulling the tank, a flatbed and a truck — which weigh a total of 80,000 pounds — for 12 feet.
It may sound tough, but it’s nothing compared to the toughness that comes with being a 20-year Air Force veteran.
Every pull and every step was, in part, for Henderson, who is now living her life with a debilitating disease.
“I developed multiple sclerosis, which is a service-connected neurological disorder,” she said.
Along with helping other veterans, the annual event helped generate enough money to provide a $30,000 wheelchair to the retired colonel.
“It’s life changing,” she said. “To be able to go through loose gravel, sand, grass, you can’t do that in a regular wheelchair.”
Henderson said she couldn’t afford to pay for the device on her own, and the VA doesn’t cover that type of chair.
That’s when people starting pulling some strings, or rope, of their own.
The chair doesn’t just make it easier to get around — it can climb stairs — it also some dignity to Henderson’s life.
“I can be at eye level with you,” she said. “I get treated as an adult.”
It’s a deserving honor from the grateful nation she fought for.
Over the last 10 years, the event has raised more than $1 million for wounded veterans.