For wounded veterans who have returned from deployment, adjusting to life with a permanent disability isn’t always easy. Many of these men and women find that traditional medical offerings don’t cover the types of devices they need to make mobility easier. That’s why Jerry Kerr, co-founder and president of Segs4Vets and a disabled man himself, believes that the organization is so important.
Segs4Vets offers universally designed mobility devices, including traditional Segways and the ALLY chair, a type of wheelchair based on the Segway that is designed for those who have lost their legs below the knee. One of the unique aspects of the organization is that it’s comprised entirely of volunteers.
“To have an all-volunteer organization last as long as it has – 14 years – speaks to the impact it has on our volunteers, as well as those we serve,” said Kerr.
One of those volunteers is Jeré Fabick, owner of Fabick Cat, who, along with his employees, has seen firsthand the freedom Segs4Vets brings to the lives of disabled veterans.
“They’re (Fabick Cat) engaged on a daily basis with the charity,” said Kerr. “They’re part of a much larger group of benefactors that because others are involved, they stay involved.”
Through this partnership, Kerr and the Segs4Vets Warrior Board disabled veterans got a hands-on look at Cat® Command for Dozing technology that allows individuals to operate machines remotely in a safe, comfortable environment. Fabick and the Warrior Board operated a Cat D8T on the Caterpillar proving grounds in Arizona from a mobile station at the Fabick Cat dealership in St. Louis, Missouri. While Command for Dozing has both safety and productivity benefits, it also comes with the added benefit of accessibility for disabled veterans and/or civilians who are interested in entering the industry.
Jose Valdenegro, one of the Warrior Board members who demoed the technology, was surprised at its ease of use. “I was able to just sit back there and completely operate it – like [the Caterpillar representative] said, ‘You’re operating it like someone who’s been operating for 10 years,’” said Valdenegro. “To me, it’s pretty amazing that it gives someone an opportunity to get a job that they would never see or wouldn’t be possible somewhere else.”
The demo allowed Caterpillar engineers to identify potential improvements to the Command for Dozing technology to make it even easier for disabled operators to use – feedback that Shane Matarelli, customer solutions manager at Caterpillar, found invaluable.
“Partnering with organizations like Segs4Vets and Fabick not only gives us a great opportunity to get instant feedback on the product we have off the shelves today, but also learn about some little changes and things we can do to offer this product to these warriors,” said Matarelli.
Available for hauling, dozing, loading and drilling applications, Caterpillar continues to refine and enhance Command for Dozing technology with the aim of bringing a broader population back into the workforce and providing them with a renewed sense of purpose. That sense of purpose is key to Kerr and the Warrior Board members.
“The ability to find purpose in life – to find a job, to work – is important to us as human beings,” Kerr said. “So for Caterpillar to have an opportunity for our men and women to re-engage in an industry they probably would have wanted to [be in] anyway, it’s extraordinary.”