Richard “Duke” Mayo of the Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 274 and Forgotten Eagles received a phone call several months ago from the veteran’s daughter, asking if there was any assistance that could be found to help do some work on his house, because he was having problems with his roof and some of the flooring in his bathroom.
The veteran, who goes by the nickname “Lee,” had served several tours in Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps and is currently battling two different types of cancer. He had been in touch with the Department of Veterans Affairs, but was not receiving much assistance and he couldn’t afford to repair his house.
“I went over to see her and figure out what we could do,” said Mayo. “I got a hold of the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, which are Marines, and they came and looked at everything. They were able to replace the toilet and fix the floor where the toilet was falling in.”
Mayo said the motorcycle club also helped do a couple more interior repairs for the veteran, as well as helping to pay a couple of his bills that were past due.
Once the interior work on the home was done, Mayo started making some phone calls and contacting local businesses to get an estimate on what it would take to fix the roof on the home. Many of the boards and other materials of the roof were starting to rot and causing water to leak into the home.
He was able to get an estimate from a local building supply store as to the cost of materials.
“I was trying to figure out how we were going to pay for it,” said Mayo.
After getting the estimate, Mayo spoke with the owner of a Cheboygan roofing company, and the owner of the company more or less took the project over, making phone calls to his suppliers and getting all the materials donated to fix the roof. Donations came from as far away as Grand Rapids to help the veteran in Cheboygan.
The local roofing company wanted to remain anonymous, with the owner saying they weren’t doing this project for the recognition, they were doing it to help the veteran.
The crews from the roofing company also donated their time last Thursday and Friday to remove the rotted portions of the roof and replace them with new wood and new soffit, getting the structure ready for shingles. Another crew from the company came in this week to lay the shingles on the roof, which should be completed by the weekend.
While the crews were working, Mayo and the Vietnam Veterans of America made sure they were well fed, purchasing all the workers lunch from Rusty Dogs in downtown Cheboygan, who provided a significant discount as their contribution to the project for Lee.
“So, we got it done and he’s going to have his roof,” said Mayo. “He’s just so thankful. He was talking to us today (Friday) and tears started coming to his eye. So, I felt good about that.”
Mayo said he was hoping to get the project done for Lee before winter set in this year, but with all the help he received from local donors and other groups, it was able to be completed before the end of July.
“There was a lot of different people helping on this,” said Mayo. “It’s nice to be able to do this stuff.”
The Forgotten Eagles is an organization that helps veterans from around the state, including recently helping to pay for funeral costs for a veteran who passed away unexpectedly in the Manistee area.
“We help wherever we can,” said Mayo.
Right now, after the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundraising the Forgotten Eagles have been able to do has been dramatically decreased, as fundraisers were not able to be hosted. This includes the button sales at Walmart and Family Fare in Cheboygan. The group is hopeful it will be able to start its fundraising efforts again soon, in order to be able to help more local veterans.
Anyone interested in making a donation to the Forgotten Eagles — to help with projects such as this roof replacement — are asked to contact Mayo by calling (231) 625-2202. All donations made to the group — minus some very small administrative costs — go right back to the veterans.
Also, any contractors who would like to help on future projects, whether it’s painting, drywall or roofing, can also contact Mayo.