MILFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A group of students from the University of Maine spent Friday’s holiday giving back to one special veteran in Milford.
“Her story is incredible, and I think this is the most perfect way to give back to all veterans,” said Darby Hogan, co-site leader of the Alternative Breaks program at UMaine.
Rachel Putnam served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. Protecting the United States of America became a large part of her life.
“It feels like yesterday and I really miss it,” she said.
To make up for that void, Putnam has taken up riding her recumbent tricycle. After some devastating news, it is one of the only physical activities she can now enjoy.
“I was in denial," she said. "I didn’t really want to accept it.”
Just before retiring from the Navy 17 years ago, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease that affects the nervous system.
The disease has made some tasks — like painting her home — nearly impossible. But that hasn’t completely stopped her.
“I just have to find different ways, or help from people,” she said.
So she got in touch with the Alternative Breaks program. With their help, painting her home was no longer a daunting chore.
“It just gives hope to all of the other veterans that there is help out there for all of us veterans,” Putnam said.
But helping those in need, said Hogan, is well worth the reward.
“I feel great doing it," she said. "I think it’s the perfect day to be here painting her house."
“They’ve put their lives on the line for all of us, and I think it’s really needed to give back to them because they’ve given back to us,” co-site leader Isiah Brown said.
When people come together, Putnam’s motto remains true.
“If you can’t do the things that you used to do, find a different way to do it," she said. "I haven’t given up, I just have to adapt the way I do things."
It took that group of students just four hours to completely repaint Putnam’s home.
To give back to your community and get involved in the Alternative Breaks program click here.