By Tony Tucci
The 58 year-old veteran thought he had been through the worst — Vietnam — but then one day he was riding his motorcycle and collided with an 18-wheeler, crushing his leg, which had to be amputated. Suddenly Allen Hancock was handicapped, with no job, no family and no place to call home.
He had friends though, his fellow veterans, and especially the veterans at Oak Hill Post 4443.
The Oak Hill veterans knew what it was like to be down and almost out. A few years ago their numbers had dwindled to the point where they didn’t have enough members to fill all officer positions. The post was in danger of losing its franchise.
Then an opportunity came up. The post sold its land in Bee Cave, where real estate prices were booming, and bought 9 acres of land on Thomas Springs Road just west of Oak Hill. The new site included a post headquarters and seven small rental homes. The homes were all occupied, but then — just about the time Hancock was being fitted for an artificial leg — one of the homes became vacant.
The home was small — just two rooms and a bath — but “it seemed like it would be a good fit for him,” said Mike Jordan, an Oak Hill Gazette columnist who lives in one of the other homes. The home needed some work though, and the veterans and the community came together to help.
The Veterans Administration provided a handicap ramp, and a local company, Bradco, donated shingles for the roof, which was installed by Wilson Roofing. A number of veterans, including Robert “Chappie” Chaplin, Caleb Chaplin and Bob Kountz, did a lot of work on the house to make it ready.
“This was an unusual collaboration between the veterans and the community,” said John Tschirhart, a member of Post 4443.
Jean Susaraba, a local realtor and a charter member of Post 4443, was instrumental in bringing Hancock and the Post together. She said Hancock and her son, Alan Peeks, are friends, and when Hancock heard there was a vacant home on the site, he contacted Susaraba.
Susaraba said she knew Hancock through her son, and he had come to a few dinners at their home. “When I heard about his accident, and that he was looking for housing, I knew our small unit would be perfect for him.”
Hancock agreed. After a five-year stint in the Coast Guard, including a year in Vietnam, he tried several business ventures, most recently a motorcycle repair shop. He now collects disability pay, which will cover his rent and some other expenses.
“He has no car, no way to get groceries. He lives on disability checks,” said Susaraba.
Hancock was badly injured in May 2010 while riding his motorcycle at the Y in Oak Hill. “Two lanes merged and I guess the driver of the truck didn’t see me,” he said. He was rushed to Brackenridge Hospital with multiple injuries.
“The doctors said my leg was so badly damaged that it would be useless, so I agreed to have it amputated,” he said. After physical rehabilitation and fitting for a prosthesis, Hancock was released from the VA Hospital in Temple last Friday.
His new home was supposed to be move-in ready this week, but some unexpected delays occurred. For one thing, workers who began to install new floor tiles discovered rotted wood and termites.
“The floor was just flaking away,” said Kountz, who was busy installing a plywood sub-floor. Kountz could not predict a date when the home would be ready for occupancy. Meanwhile, Hancock has been staying at Susaraba’s home.
As for his future, Hancock says no more motorcycles. “I think I’m going to buy a pickup and turn into a redneck,” he said.