NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – About 80 motorcyclists, many of them members of the national Fire & Iron Firefighters Motorcycle Club, joined Saturday to help disabled Iraq War veteran Stephen J. Mandile of Uxbridge.
Mandile was a sergeant with the U.S. Army and Massachusetts National Guard in 2005 when he was wounded in Iraq, suffering a severe spinal cord injury, nerve damage in his legs, traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder, among other things.
Now declared by the Veterans Administration 100 percent disabled, Mandile lives on Henry Street with his wife, Jessica, and their 14-month-old daughter, Abbigail.
Mandile, who walks with a cane and often falls because of nerve damage, said the Veterans Administration has denied his request to adapt his home to accommodate his disabilities.
More concerning to Mandile and his wife is the agency’s refusal to perform surgery recommended by the Home Base Program for Disabled Veterans at Mass. General Hospital in Boston. Physicians there recommend that a pump be installed under his skin that would bring medication directly to the source of the pain and keep it better controlled, he said.
Mandile said he was told the VA performs that surgery only on terminal cancer patients. If paid for privately, the cost of the surgery is about $50,000.
Members of the local chapter of Fire & Iron, formed about a year ago, learned of Mandile’s plight on Memorial Day when his story was told on a local news station.
The firefighters were particularly touched because Mandile had hoped to become a firefighter when his tour of duty ended.
Saturday’s ride ended with a chicken barbecue at Hawk’s Nest in Northbridge.
Contributions to the Sgt. Mandile Disabled Veteran Benefit Fund, c/o Rockland Trust, 4 North Main St., Bellingham, MA 02019 are welcome.
To learn more about Mandile and his family, visit www.sgtmandile.com.