Benjamin M. Williams

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Benjamin M. Williams

Member, Board of Directors; Chairman, Building Committee

I was inducted into the Army in 1953 and served in the Korean War. I served as a tank commander and was released from active service in 1955. Under the universal military training act I was in the Army Reserve for another eight years and was honorably discharged in 1963.

During my time in the service I accidentally fell, broke my leg and injured my back. After I was discharged I continued to have back and leg problems. Over the years, I broke my leg three more times. With no warning, I would lose all feeling in my legs and fall. I was finally diagnosed with spinal stenosis paraplegia.

I joined the Keystone Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America so I would be able to associate with and help my peers. The chapter provides many opportunities, not just sports and recreation, that we might not otherwise be able to enjoy.

Besides serving on the chapter’s Board of Directors, I am the chairman of the Building Committee. I serve as the chapter’s deputy VA Voluntary Services representative for the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, both the Oakland and Heinz campuses, and spend about 300 or more hours on that task. I hear and monitor problems that our members might have and I pass along canteen coupon books purchased by the chapter to help them buy items they need from the commissary. I urge everyone to visit a veterans’ medical center and talk to some of the disabled veterans there.

I help promote PVA and the Keystone Chapter by staffing the chapter’s exhibit booth at the annual Washington County (Pa.) Sports Show.

I feel strongly about my fellow vets; I keep in touch with many. I especially commend our more active wheelchair athletes and how hard they work to earn those gold medals in competition.

As a veteran of the Korean War, It is important to me to remind people that there remain over 7,000 MIAs from that conflict.

Tom Strang

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Tom Strang

Member, Board of Directors
Site Leader: Hospital Liaison, and VAVS Representative (VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System)

I am 71 years old and married to Agnes Strang, the Volunteer Coordinator of Keystone PVA. We have two children, Loren and Tom; both married. They have blessed us with seven beautiful grandchildren – one boy and six girls.

In the early 1960s, I served on the submarine USS Carp (SS-338). My rank was Torpedoman Second Class SS and I was in charge of the aft torpedo room.

My spinal cord injury level is complete and my level of function is paraplegia.

In the past 16 years I have served at times as your Treasurer, Secretary, member of the Board of Directors and Sports Director, and Hospital Liaison Officer.

At present I am your Membership Officer, Associate Sports Director, member of the Board of Directors and Hospital Liaison Officer in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS). I am the Keystone Chapter’s VA Voluntary Service Representative at the H. John Heinz III Progressive Care Center and the University Drive hospital of the VAPHS. I monitor the SCI clinic and the wheelchair seating clinic at the Heinz PCC.

My goals and those of the Chapter are to uphold the commitment to improving the quality of life and protecting the rights of spinal-cord injured and neurologically impaired patients. The major areas of effort lie with providing health care benefits, service rights, SCI research, recreation, sports activities and working to create legislation to ensure employment opportunities and civil rights and to become leaders in the fight against barriers in the everyday world. Our goals are: Consistency, Determination and You – our members.

Christopher A. Fidler

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Christopher A. Fidler

Member Board of Directors
Site Leader, Hospital Liaison, and VAVS Representative (Lebanon VA Medical Center)

I joined the Army at age 17, and was a member of Company C 2/504 (AbnInf) with the 82nd Airborne. I was an infantry squad leader, and rose to the rank of Sergeant (E-5) in three years, before breaking my back in a freak motorcycle accident at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. In addition to my Airborne Jump Wings, I earned an Expert Infantry Badge and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal.

I am 100% service connected, with a T-4 complete injury, resulting in my being a paraplegic. I was approached by a member of Paralyzed Veterans of America while in the hospital, and their representative helped me through a rough transitional period. I learned that “the system” didn’t do anything to provide me with the information necessary to make sure I received all of the benefits I was entitled to. Thanks to the PVA representative, I was able to understand how to apply for, and receive, all of the finances and prosthetics I needed to make life as a paraplegic bearable.

I have been active in the Sports & Recreation programs that the Paralyzed Veterans Keystone Chapter offers, and have won many medals and awards. But more importantly, I’ve used the opportunity to meet and share experiences with my fellow veterans.

I want to give back to my fellow veterans, and help them like I was helped. Through my years as a Board member of the Keystone Chapter, I have learned what it takes to work within “the system”, and have had a good deal of success at the Lebanon VA Medical Center and elsewhere, providing information and pushing the various government agencies to recognize their responsibility to paralyzed veterans in particular, and to the entire disabled veteran community.

Jerry “Bull” Baylor

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Jerry “Bull” Baylor

Member, Board of Directors; Sports Director

I joined the U.S. Marines in 1966 and went through boot camp at Parris Island for eight weeks training, which was usually 12 weeks, but Marines were needed for Vietnam. Next I went to Camp Lejeune for infantry training where I was trained in every individual combat weapon. When that was completed I went Lejeune Court House Bay for Combat Engineer School. Training there was fast and furious because combat engineers were needed quickly. A 20-week school was crammed into 20 days. The Marine Corps also put me through the combat and staging battalion at Camp Pendleton, California. So I entered Boot Camp in May and was in Vietnam before Thanksgiving. I served 13 months all over Vietnam; on my return I was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia to finish my four-year hitch as an E-5 Sergeant.

I worked at Allegheny Ludlum Steel until I became disabled in a motorcycle accident in 1980. I sustained a C6-7 injury, leaving me a quadriplegic.

My rehabilitation was at Harmarville, where I was introduced into wheelchair sports by the Pittsburgh Steelwheelers. I have participated in sports over 32 years in marathons, road racing, track, field, and quad rugby. My greatest satisfaction comes from getting others involved.

Through sports I was introduced to Paralyzed Veterans of America. I became a member in the 1980s and have held many offices including secretary, board member, sports director, legislative advocacy director, vice president, and president. I continue as a board member and am the current Sports Director. I volunteer approximately 1000 hours annually at the Heinz campus of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and with the Keystone Chapter