Local News

Army vet roams roads to help stranded motorists

Posted July 23, 2014 5:16 p.m. EDT
Updated July 23, 2014 5:53 p.m. EDT

— Walt Brinker is a retired Army veteran who received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Vietnam.

For many stranded motorists, the 70-year-old has a heart of gold.

About twice a week, Brinker gets in his car and cruises the highways to help people who have broken down. It's something he started in 1980 after helping a woman who needed a jump.

"I realized that I couldn't help many of them, besides those who needed jumps, because I didn't have the smarts or the gear to do it,” Brinker said. “So, I began acquiring over time the equipment, the experience and tools to help me diagnose problems – simple problems – and also fix them out on the highway."

Brinker, who holds a bachelor's degree in engineering from the United States Military Academy, has packed the back of his car with simple tools that are life-savers for those stuck on a roadside. He’s got jumper cables long enough to connect batteries without having to park cars side-by-side on busy roads.

He said he often encounters drivers who are out of gas or locked out, or they have vehicles with electrical problems or that have overheated.

“I have the techniques and I have the tools to deal with all that stuff now,” Brinker said.

During the past 30 years, Brinker, who lives in Eastover, says he's helped about 2,000 motorists across the country get on their way without charging them a dime. He's packed what he's learned in his book, “Roadside Survival Low-Tech Solutions to Automobile Breakdowns." Cumberland County Schools is thinking about using the book in driver’s education courses.

“The biggest chapter is on tires,” he said. “One of the first chapters is on safety because that's my primary consideration, so I don't get hurt out there."