Outdoors

ATV wheelchair to help disabled Indiana hunter

2014-03-06T19:00:00Z 2014-03-06T20:51:38Z ATV wheelchair to help disabled Indiana hunterBill McCleery The Indianapolis Star nwitimes.com
March 06, 2014 7:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Vietnam veteran Jesus Quintana loves to hunt, but crossing fields and forests is not easy for the Eastside Indianapolis double amputee.

Each year, he typically is driven a few times to his favorite spots, such as areas around Camp Atterbury in Johnson County, then helped to a hunting blind.

The wheelchair the 65-year-old retired Marine uses does not maneuver well over ruts, rocks, mud or thick vegetation.

Next month, however, Quintana plans to hunt turkey for the first time, and he will have a new means of getting around: a $12,000 all-terrain wheelchair donated this week by American Legion Post 182 in New Palestine.

The chair has a higher clearance than a typical wheelchair and uses tanklike treads rather than wheels.

"I am very grateful," Quintana told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/P1I6fl ). "Beyond helping me hunt, it's going to be a big help with a lot of everyday things. Just on my own property, I've wanted to go out there and repair a fence some dogs tore up. But I haven't really been able to get to it. I think I can get out there with this thing."

He and his wife, Betty, live near 21st Street and Emerson Avenue.

"I'm looking forward to taking it around my neighborhood on warm summer nights and smoking a little cigar," he said. "I don't like to smoke in the house."

Quintana lost his legs in an explosion during an Aug. 29, 1968, combat mission. Quintana and his unit had marched into a rice paddy near the Ho Chi Minh trail when an artillery shell exploded.

Several of Quintana's friends lost their lives in the blast.

He accepted his physical limitations pretty quickly, he said.

"I adapted," said Quintana, who later received three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his wartime service. "You know this is the life you have to live. I had to do it, and that was it. I think I did pretty good."

Quintana now volunteers once a week at Community Hospital East and serves as a chaplain with the Marine Corps League. He received the chair at a ceremony Tuesday night. The money was raised through Tuesday night Texas Hold 'em poker games at the American Legion post.

"He's the perfect candidate," said David Espich, 69, a past commander of the post (and brother of Indianapolis Star photographer Frank Espich). "He's a super, super nice guy, and it's very rewarding to see him get it. We work hard at this Texas Hold 'em. We generated every bit of it from doing that."

Participants pay a $25 entry fee. The Legion keeps $5 per entry and puts $20 into winnings for players. The games are open to the public.

"We had 109 people Tuesday," Espich said.

The post's current goal, Espich said, is to raise enough to buy another chair for another veteran this year.

Action Manufacturing of Marshall, Minn., developed the Action Trackchair after 30 years in the recreational motor sports business, according to the company website. Company founder Tim Swenson originally developed an off-road wheelchair for his son Jeff.

Quintana looks forward to seeing how his new chair and its tanklike treads increase his mobility in the field.

Last fall's deer hunting season wasn't as successful as Quintana had hoped.

"I never got one," he said. "I could have gotten one on the first day, but it was a small deer and I was hoping to get a bigger one. I should have gone ahead and shot the first one, but that's the way it goes."

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