War is hell – no one knows that better than a disabled American veteran – but life after war may be the greater curse, at least until a team of red-vested angels comes along.

One of the countless vets who have been ignored by the Veterans Administration is Michael Sulsona of Staten Island. Having waited two years for the VA to address his request for a new wheel chair – Sulsona lost both legs in Vietnam to a land mine – his chair collapsed in a local Lowe’s home improvement store. Three Lowe’s workers came to the rescue and repaired Sulsona’s chair, even extending past their regular work shifts.

Sulson described the scene to the New York Post:

The 62-year-old vet, who lost both his legs in a land-mine explosion, heard a loud crack from a busted bolt holding the chair together. “I knew I was stuck and couldn’t go anywhere,” he told The Post on Wednesday.

But before Sulsona could panic, a red-vested employee nicknamed “Sal” came to his rescue. “He shouted out some orders and assembled a team of guys who came over and immediately started helping me,” Sulsona said. “They were like a well-oiled machine, like a SWAT team.”

This story shines a light on two corporate cultures, one very good and one very corrupt.

On the one hand, Lowe’s can be commended for fostering a positive business culture that would enable three workers to drop what they are doing once they saw a customer in distress, sit him in a lawn chair, and go to work on his “decrepit” wheel chair.

On the other hand, you have a federal agency that is supposed to support men and women who have sacrificed in service of their country, but which can’t reform its culture well enough to supply a double amputee with a new wheel chair that provides him basic mobility.

For the record, the VA sent Sulsona a new wheel chair right after the incident, but not before he had sent a letter to the editor of the Staten Island Advance recognizing the Lowe’s workers for their selfless support of an important member of their community.

About the experience, Sulsona wrote to the Stane Island Advance:

“They didn’t ask any questions, didn’t feel the need to fill out any forms or make phone calls. Someone needed help, and they felt privileged to be given the opportunity,” Sulsona said.

Clearly, the VA has already been struggling through its unprecedented organizational and communications crisis over the past several weeks, but the Sulsona story demonstrates that the agency has a long way to go before the scandal can be considered resolved. It was before Sulsona’s wheel chair collapsed that he needed a new one, not after the VA was embarrassed in a local newspaper for its continued malfeasance.

Lowe’s is clearly doing something right with their business culture. It is usually at the local level that good corporate principles will stand out best, and that was the case in Staten Island.

This story is a classic representation of how private enterprise trumps public enterprise in ways that profoundly affects lives. Lowe’s should reward their fast acting staff, not just for benefiting a disabled vet, but for so proudly representing the Lowes brand as well.

Photo Credit: Staten Island Advance

Lowe’s employees come to the rescue of disabled vet with broken wheelchair
VA snubs veteran, so three Lowe’s workers fix his wheelchair