Disabled Army veteran Steven Madrigal pleaded with a utilities company to not turn off his water.
It was too late, they told him over the phone. A utilities employee was already outside doing so. He needed to pay $111 to have it turned back on, or he was out of luck.
As a disabled veteran receiving 80 percent disability and with no additional income, that was $111 Madrigal didn’t have.
Madrigal served 16 years in the United States Army, where he spent time in Iraq, Korea, and Cuba. Madrigal’s term included a stint in the airborne division where repeated jumps caused damage to his knees, ultimately leading to his disability.
A divorced father worried about the wellbeing of his three daughters, Madrigal immediately turned to community outreach programs for assistance with the bill.
They either wouldn’t help, or they were impossible to get ahold of. It looked grim.
But Madrigal made one more call, and finally, he got a different answer.
That answer was, “All you have to do is get down here.”
The voice on the other end of the phone belonged to Albert Farmer of Disabled American Veterans (DAV), a 501c4 program that helps disabled veterans with a wide array of challenges.
Exciting as those words were to hear, they also presented another challenge for Madrigal: his gas tank was near-empty.
With no other choice, Madrigal crossed his fingers, fired up his truck, and headed toward the DAV Cactus Chapter #2, located at 3455 S. Wilmot Road.
“He managed to get over here, but he ran out of gas as he pulled into the parking lot,” said Farmer. “He came in the door about to cry.”
A 21-year Air Force veteran, Farmer wasn’t about to let Madrigal leave in the same frame of mind in which he arrived.
Using money from the DAV reserve, Farmer gave Madrigal enough to cover the water bill.
“It was without question,” said Madrigal. “It was ‘You need help? I got you.’ It was a weight off my shoulders.”
But Farmer didn’t stop there.
“He pulled money out of his own wallet, and he said, ‘Put gas in your truck.’ I asked him if there was anything I could do, and he said, ‘We’re vets. We do what we need to do to take care of other vets. It was incredible.”
Madrigal’s water had been shut off at 9 a.m. By noon, he had paid the bill and it was back on.
“It was a lifesaver,” said Madrigal.
Farmer, who has been with the local DAV chapter since 1996, said stories like are why he chooses to volunteer much of his time there.
“It’s the satisifaction,” he said. “It’s the satisfaction of seeing someone come in not knowing how to handle a situation, and us handling it for them.”
The Disable American Veterans program helps veterans with a variety of issues, including receiving medical benefits, beating homelessness, aid with housing expenses, and more.
For information, visit www.azdav.org/chapter-2.