Community rallies around local vet
When Tech Sgt. Joseph Wilkerson entered the Air Force back in 1997, he was an 18-year-old pillar of strength. Now, at 31, he's confined to a wheelchair and just trying to keep his family afloat. Saturday, the community tries to give back to a vet who gave so much.
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LANSINGBURGH, N.Y. -- When Tech Sgt. Joseph Wilkerson entered the Air Force back in 1997, he was an 18-year-old pillar of strength. Now, at 31, he's confined to a wheel-chair, and just trying to keep his family afloat. Saturday the community tries to give back to a vet who gave so much.
Friends and family held a benefit dinner for the Lansingburgh native at the village veteran's hall.
Wilkinson was part of security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan during his 13-year military career, but he was forced to retire for what doctor's are calling a "mystery illness."
Since his final deployment in 2005, Wilkinson started experiencing severe pains all over his body and weakness in both legs. In the last few months, he took a turn for the worse, losing feeling in both legs and the ability to walk.
Multiple operations haven't brought a cure and he believes he may be suffering from exposure to poisonous chemicals during the wars.
To make matters worse, Wilkinson still isn't receiving his disability pension.
Dozens came out to support their hero, hoping to raise enough money to pay for his medical bills and get his family back on their feet.
"He was the rock of our family, and now it's our turn to give back to him," said his sister, Jennifer Fischer. "I'm honored, absolutely honored, to be his sister, and I'm honored to be able to help him."
"He's not being taken care of from the government as any veteran should, healthy or otherwise, and it's really unfortunate and it's really a sad situation," said family friend Becky Lenhardt. "I'd do anything to help him and I know everyone would, so that's why we're here."
Wilkinson has a wife and three young children, ages 12, 9 and 1. If you can't make it to the dinner but want to make a donation, you can do so at any SEFCU branch.