As a combat engineer stationed in Afghanistan, Army Sergeant Christopher Tate was responsible for one of the most dangerous jobs in his unit. Each day, he’d clear improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to help make the roads safe. His life changed one morning while completing his usual assignment. “We were clearing the high grounds that day and as we came into the low grounds to clear out more (IEDs), I stood beside a dismounted IED and it was set off,” Tate said.
Tate suffered traumatic brain injuries and lost hearing in his left ear and complete use of his left arm. He lost half his shoulder and flank, and endured multiple skin grafts and a total of 29 surgeries.
Tate had to relearn how to walk. And when he finally returned home after four months in the hospital, he realized he could no longer do some of the simpler things in life. One of those things was mowing his lawn.
“I did have a push lawn mower, but it wasn’t working for me,” Tate said. “I can only hold my left arm up so far. With that and me having to push the lawn mower, it was a struggle.”
Not being able to mow was especially difficult for Tate. “I love mowing lawns. Growing up back home, I used to cut the grass all the time,” he said. “I used to get out, push my little small mower around town, asking people to cut their grass.”
South Fort Worth Store Manager Jeremiah Stanley, a 12-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, learned of Tate through a random encounter at a local Veteran Affairs office. He struck up a conversation with a gentleman in the waiting room who belonged to a nonprofit organization that helps veterans.
“He and I got to talking, and he expressed to me that he was having trouble with a specific veteran in finding a lawn mower that fit his specific needs for his disabilities,” Stanley said. “That’s when he introduced me to Mr. Tate.”
When Stanley met Tate, he knew he could help. With the help of Case Coleman, a customer service specialist at the Fort Worth Lowe’s, Stanley located a lawn mower that fit Tate’s need – a standing mower with a 30-inch deck. After collaborating with Lowe’s corporate office, the store was able to get the mower and deliver it to Tate’s house. The mower was paid for entirely by the local nonprofit.
“I love that lawn mower,” Tate said. “I love it. I get out sometimes once I finish cutting my grass, I might go out in my back yard just to ride it sometimes. Now that I have that mower, I’m able to get back out and do the things that I used to enjoy doing.”
Now that I have that mower, I’m able to get back out and do the things that I used to enjoy doing.”—Sergeant Christopher Tate, United States Army, Retired
Stanley said what the store team did was nothing extraordinary. “There was a need there and we really felt that our organization could really come together and do something special for this particular customer,” he said.
The two men stay in close contact, and consider each other a friend. “Jeremiah is always texting me,” said Tate, “and asking, ‘Are you enjoying the mower?’ He’s checked on me a lot.”
It’s a special bond, Stanley said. “Being deployed several times myself, 12 years in the Marines, there’s definitely a connection Chris and I share.”