A gift of independence for WMass veterans

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Memorial Day is the time to remember heroes who gave their lives for our freedom; but it’s also a time to honor those veterans still with us.

Melissa May has been working at the Stop & Shop in Northampton for three years, and has become friendly with her customers, many of whom she sees at her other job, waitressing at The BlueBonnet Diner. When Melissa learned her store manager’s brother had suffered a traumatic brain injury at war, she turned to those friends, both colleagues and customers, to buy bikes for the veterans at the VA Medical Center in Leeds.

“A lot of them don’t have licenses or money for cars. It’s really important for them to be able to get around,” May said.

One of Melissa’s customers connected her with Robert Cobb, who owns Manhan Bicycles in Easthampton. Cobb said, “It’s a catch 22. I can’t get a bike until I get a job. I’ve always tried to set parts aside or help with a little repair work.”

Robert was eager to help any way he could, and he wasn’t the only one.

Melissa set out to raise enough money for two bikes to give to veterans who have already given so much of themselves, but thanks to the generosity of her colleagues and customers, this Memorial Day, 12 western Massachusetts veterans will receive keys to independence and better health.

“We oftentimes think about those who served in WWII and Vietnam. I’m really happy to be focusing on our younger vets,” said May.

“They’re still giving 110%. They’re still doing their very best to represent, and they deserve respect. You really can’t do enough. Sorry,” said Cobb.

This Memorial Day, the U.S. Marine Corps’ chaplain said of veterans, ‘What they have done, has allowed us to be here.’ This summer, a dozen western Mass. heroes will ride their new bikes along western Mass. roads and trails — a small token of thanks for the freedom they’ve protected.

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