It's the little things that make a difference in the life of a military veteran, said Rich Jackson of the Veterans Administration.
By little things, Jackson was referring to a reliable car, employment, housing---the day to day things a returning veteran needs that are beyond the reach of the VA. So when members of the Belmont Rotary Club and business owners from the mid-Peninsula banded together to provide a car for Iraq War veteran James Vick yesterday, it was clear that an important piece to Vick's future had fallen into place.
Vick is a U.S. Marine from San Mateo who served two tours of duty in Iraq, and was injured in the line of duty. He is a single father and works at the Foster City Athletic Club.
The car donation was the work of many local business people, including Chris Zammit, owner of Summit Auto Body & Painting, which was the location of Wednesday's ceremony.
As Zammit put it, "We want to help these guys who do so much. I had two brothers who served in Vietnam, and I remember how it affected my family, but at least we had each other for support. James had no support when he came back from Iraq."
Brian Lynch, manager of the San Mateo Mollie Stone's Market also helped make the early Veterans Day event possible. His store donated the food for the lunchtime BBQ that the guests enjoyed while talking with Vick and other members of the military in attendance.
The car donation wheels started turning when Vick's boss, Terry Wyrsch, general manager of the Foster City Athletic Club, learned about the donation program.
"A military recruiter stopped by the club to drop off some fliers about a campaign going on where they were looking for a veteran to receive a car donation," said Wyrsch.
"James had a rough situation when he returned from Iraq. He had no family support and I thought that a car would really help him out so I called Chris, who I knew was involved with the Rotary Club donation program," she added.
Belmont Rotary Club president Joanna Reams, presented Vick with the keys to his new car, a 1991 Lexus LS400.
Vick was humbled and appreciative. "I've been driving my girlfriend's car, so it was great when my boss Terry helped out with getting this car for me," said Vick, while his two young daughters climbed in and out of the car between bites of a hamburger.
Although Chris Zammit hosted the event at his shop located at 317 Old County Rd. in Belmont, he was quick to acknowledge his staff of mechanics and others who made the car donation possible."
"We couldn't have done this without the hard work of these great guys," said Zammit about his staff.
The vehicle itself was donated by one of Zammit's customers who regularly donate their used cars to the shop.
"We've got another one we're working on now," said Zammit. He said he hopes to get other military organizations involved, such as the VA and Blue Star Moms for future donations.
"When you have a local guy like Chris (Zammit) give of his time and get the community together like this for a military veteran, it's huge," said Rich Jackson of the VA.
Donations for the ceremony were also made by:
Summit Auto Body, ABC Auto Wreckers, Jacks Auto Tops, Kohlweiss Auto Parts San Mateo Locks, Kirberg Motors, ABS Automotive, Sanders Automotive Napa Auto Parts, Action Towing, Wheelworks San Mateo, Magnussen Lexus Mikado Technology, and Phoenix Digital Printing.