Several groups come together to get veteran a new roof

CHEBOYGAN — Several local veteran groups and local contractors came together over the weekend to repair and replace the leaking, rotting roof of a Cheboygan veteran currently battling cancer.

Richard “Duke” Mayo of the Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 274 and Forgotten Eagles got a call a few months ago from the veteran’s daughter asking if help could be found to do some work on his house as he is having problems with his roof and part of the floor in his bathroom.

Nicknamed “Lee,” the veteran had several tours in Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps and is currently battling two different types of cancer. He’d been in touch with the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he didn’t get much help and couldn’t afford to fix his house.

“I went to see her to see what we could do,” Mayo said. “I got my hands on the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, these are Marines, and they came and looked at everything. They were able to replace the toilet and fix the floor that the toilet fell into.”

Mayo said the motorcycle club also helped do a few more interior repairs for the veteran, as well as helped pay some of his delinquent bills.

With the interior work done on the house, Mayo started making some phone calls and contacting local businesses to get an estimate of what would be needed to repair the house’s roof. Many of the roof’s planks and other materials began to rot, causing water to leak into the house.

He was able to get an estimate of the cost of materials from a local hardware store.

“I was trying to figure out how we would pay for it,” Mayo said.

After getting the estimate, Mayo spoke to the owner of a roofing company in Cheboygan, and the company owner more or less took over the project, called his suppliers and got all the materials donated to repair the roof. Donations came from as far as Grand Rapids to help the veteran in Cheboygan.

The local roofing company wished to remain anonymous, with the owner saying they were doing this project not for recognition but to help the veteran.

The roofing company’s crews also donated their time last Thursday and Friday to remove the rotted parts of the roof and replace them with new wood and new soffit so the structure is ready for clapboards. Another crew from the company came this week to lay the shingles on the roof, which should be ready by the weekend.

While the crews were on the job, Mayo and the Vietnam Veterans of America made sure they were well fed by buying all the workers lunch at Rusty Dogs in downtown Cheboygan, who gave a significant discount as their contribution to the project for Lee.

“So we made it happen and he gets his roof,” Mayo said. “He’s just so grateful. He spoke to us today (Friday) and tears started to come to his eyes. So I felt good about that.”

Mayo said he hoped to complete the project for Lee before winter kicked off this year, but with all the help he received from local donors and other groups, it could be completed before the end of July.

“There were a lot of different people who helped with this,” Mayo said. “It’s nice to be able to do this.”

The Forgotten Eagles is an organization that helps veterans from across the state, including most recently the funeral expenses for a veteran who died unexpectedly in the Manistee area.

“We help where we can,” Mayo says.

At the moment, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundraising that the Forgotten Eagles have been able to do has been drastically reduced as the fundraisers could not be organized. This includes button sales at Walmart and Family Fare in Cheboygan. The group is hopeful that it will soon be able to start raising money again to help more local veterans.

Anyone interested in making a donation to the Forgotten Eagles – to help with projects such as this roof replacement – is requested to contact Mayo by calling (231) 625-2202. All donations to the group – minus some very small administrative costs – go directly back to the veterans.

Also, any contractors who would like to assist with future projects, be it painting, drywall or roofing, can also contact Mayo.

Contact Features Writer Kortny Hahn at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @khahnCDT.

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