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Veteran’s truck stolen, but hearts prevail in Duncan

An Afghanistan war veteran whose truck was stolen last week says he can’t believe the community’s generosity, after a Duncan dealership handed him the keys to a new fixer-upper.

An Afghanistan war veteran whose truck was stolen last week says he can’t believe the community’s generosity, after a Duncan dealership handed him the keys to a new fixer-upper.

“It’s pretty crazy, I wasn’t expecting it, that’s for sure,” James Crouch, 31, said.

“It’s so generous.”

The Chemainus resident suffered a brain injury in Afghanistan, where he served for nine months and survived two explosive device blasts. Since returning in July 2011, post-traumatic stress disorder has made daily activities from cooking to laundry a tough challenge.

“It affects my daily life 100 per cent. My wife, who has grown into becoming my caregiver basically, has to look after most of my daily tasks and makes sure I’m on my medications and following up on therapy,” Crouch said.

But working on his 1986 Chevy C10 had also played an important role in his recovery, he said. Fixing the transmission and putting in a new motor kept his hands and mind busy.

It was almost done, when he learned it had been stolen from the OK Tire lot in Duncan early last Thursday.

“It was a financial loss and an emotional loss,” he said.

His wife, Nicole, said the initial devastation has been tempered by the surprise gift from the Duncan GMC dealership.

“It’s been traumatic, to be honest. We got a little happily-ever-after today, but for him, he was working on it for so long and had so much emotionally invested in that truck,” she said.

“[The gift] really shows there are some good people out there as well.”

Staff at the dealership on the Trans-Canada Highway came up with the idea to donate a truck to Crouch, when they heard about his story.

“We felt badly for him. We’ve been affected by all the break-ins as well around here and we wanted to do something to help,” business development manager Kimberly Blom said.

The dealership surprised Crouch with the keys to a 1997 Chevy — another fixer-upper with too many kilometres on it to sell.

“It looks nice and clean on the outside, but it really needs a lot of work,” Blom said.

Robert Nikirk, who owns OK Tire, said he was glad there was a happy ending for Crouch.

Nikirk said there’s been a rash of car and property thefts in Duncan in recent weeks.

The OK Tire was broken into three days in a row last week, he said, although Crouch’s was the only vehicle stolen.

“My heart goes out to this poor man. He has enough issues to deal with — this doesn’t need to be one. I feel so badly,” Nikirk said.

asmart@timescolonist.com