For Army veteran Brian Martin, the past few days have been an emotional whirlwind.
He was shocked and saddened Thursday when his car was stolen from his Coram driveway. On Saturday, he was elated -- overwhelmed by a wave of community support. "It's just amazing to see how people actually care; how they actually look out for each other," he said. "I definitely don't feel as alone."
The Holtsville native, 25, was injured during a 2010 tour in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The corporal spent the past 18 months in physical therapy in Italy, returning to Long Island with his wife, Dana, and their 5-month-old son, Treyson, in June.
The family was looking forward tosuburban normalcy: They rented a house and began looking for work. Brian Martin bought a dark-blue 2002 Jeep Liberty with his $6,000 Army severance check.
Two weeks later, it was stolen. Inside was Treyson's stroller and a lower-back brace that Martin uses because of degenerative disc disease. The condition stems from injuries suffered when he was on patrol and the ground beneath his vehicle suddenly gave way, causing it to roll down a hill.
"I was disgusted," Martin said of the theft.
"That was his one gift to himself, and it was taken from him," said Dana Martin, 24.
But after the crime was reported on News 12 Long Island, the community responded in a big way. The FealGood Foundation based in Nesconset gave the couple $1,000 toward a new car and Treyson a $250 Toys R Us gift card. 9-1-1 Veterans offered to replace the stroller.
When Joe Amodei Jr., owner of the auto-repair chain The Collision Centers in Suffolk County, saw the story online, he scanned the Facebook comments and saw that Brian Martin's sister, Kelly, had posted something. He messaged her immediately.
Amodei's shops participate in Recycled Rides, a community service project of the National Auto Body Council that repairs banged-up cars and donates them to needy families. Amodei arranged to have the Long Island chapter of Recycled Rides have a car ready to give to the Martins this week. "You want to help out someone that needs the help -- you want to do it for a vet," Amodei said. "The guy put his life on the line for us, for our freedom."
Grateful, Dana Martin called the outpouring of support "overwhelming."
Suffolk police said Saturday they haven't recovered the Jeep or made any arrests. If he gets the car back, Brian Martin said he'll return all the charity his family received this week. So others in need can be helped.