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Afghanistan veteran's needs met after car theft

Dennis Sullivan of the Centerreach VFW Hall hands

Dennis Sullivan of the Centerreach VFW Hall hands the keys over to veteran Brian Martin he received a new car after his Jeep was recently stolen from his driveway. (Aug. 8, 2012) Credit: Johnny Milano

Afghanistan war veteran Brian Martin would have taken "anything with wheels," after his 2002 Jeep that he bought last month was stolen from his driveway in Coram last week.

"If they were going to give me an '83 rust box, that would have been fine," said Martin, 25.

At a ceremony Wednesday at the Centereach Veterans of Foreign Wars, Martin received the keys to a gleaming gray, 2006 Chevrolet Impala, with a big green bow on the hood.

The car had a mere 40,000 miles on it, about 80,000 fewer than the Jeep. With it came a $50 check for gas and a certificate for three oil changes -- the latest additions to a litany of gifts to Martin, his wife and 5-month-old son since the theft.

The former Army corporal, who injured his back in 2010 in a vehicle accident in Afghanistan and has been looking for work, said that the past week had been a "roller coaster."

"I'll get a call from the [police] detective telling me he's got nothing," Martin said. "Then, I've got someone else saying they're bringing over $300 worth of diapers. It's amazing."

The VFW post found the car for Martin through Recycled Rides, a project of the National Auto Body Council that refurbishes and donates vehicles to needy families.

VFW Quartermaster Dennis Sullivan runs the local branch, which aims to welcome back veterans from overseas.

"When I came home from Vietnam, they did nothing for us," said Sullivan, 61. "This is why we go out for these guys."

After hearing of Martin's misfortune, Sullivan helped secure the Impala from State Farm insurance, which had earmarked it for donation, complete with new tires and brakes.

"All the mechanics had to do was look it over," said State Farm salvage monitor Steve Wisnoski, 51.

At Wednesday's ceremony, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) praised those involved in undoing "the wrong that had been done." Other local organizations that contributed included Padock Auto Body, Frankie's Towing and Crestwood Auto Body.

The Jeep Liberty, which Martin purchased in July, was stolen as he slept on Aug. 2.

"We've gotten to see the worst of Long Island -- a car getting stolen from a veteran's driveway -- and then . . . we got to see the best of Long Island," Bishop said.

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