Local group helps paralyzed veteran

Group builds ramp for veteran to enjoy flower garden

Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn.

That was especially the case for one West Salem veteran.

Richard Miller lives in West Salem. But an unexpected emergency left him unable to take care of his flower garden.

That is, until one organization lent a helping hand.

West Salem resident Richard Miller loves sharing stories about his time in the Marine Corps.

“Here’s a picture of a Marine dressed in blue, and I looked at that and said, ‘Why should I join the Army, when I could be one of those guys?'” Miller said.

But now in his 80s, he has something else to share: his flower garden.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing,” Miller said. “I go out there just about every day and work for five, six,  seven, sometimes eight, nine hours a day, depending what time of the year it was.”

Over time, his garden grew, as well as his love for the outdoors.

“I think just getting down on your knees in the dirt, and seeing the results of what you do,” Miller said.

But last winter, a health emergency changed his life forever.

“I started getting pains in my chest, and I couldn’t walk at all,” Miller said. “So (my wife) called the ambulance and they took me in… and that’s when he came and told me that my spinal cord was hemorrhaging and destroys the nerves, that there’s nothing they could do as far as treatment — that I would be paralyzed from the waist down.”

Now confined to a wheelchair, Miller was unable to visit or care for his special garden.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Miller said. “I like to go out there on nice days and sit and read — look at the clouds and the sky and the flowers and the fish.”

Miller spent months rehabbing in Milwaukee while his family prepared his home and his garden for a wheelchair.

But he was still unable to reach his shed, located behind his garage.

“Unless the ground was dry and hard, I wouldn’t be able to go on it,” Miller said.

That’s when his wife called WisCorps.

“They came out here with two crews, four guys in each crew,” Miller said.

The group helped build a ramp leading down to his shed.

“Now I can feed the birds, and just things I would like to do,” Miller said.

While it doesn’t give him the ability to walk again, it does give him freedom, and a way to share his garden once again.

“It gives more meaning to your life,” Miller said.

WisCorps told the Millers that they will return next spring in order to install a raised flower bed, which will allow Miller to once again tend to his garden.

The Miller’s home was remodeled to allow Richard to stay on the first floor.
At this time, he is able to live at home with the help of his wife.