Off-duty Middletown firefighters spent their day building a wheelchair ramp for a Vietnam veteran who recently had his leg amputated. The veteran was told at the Dayton VA that he couldn't come home until a ramp was built.

Firefighters build wheelchair ramp for Vietnam veteran

Ezekiel Barnett, 66, who served as a Marine in Vietnam, recently had his left leg amputated above the knee due to his diabetic medical condition, said his wife, Debbie. He has been hospitalized since June at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and was told he wouldn’t get released until a ramp was built.

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Soon, possibly this weekend, Barnett, who served two tours in Vietnam, will return to his Middletown residence thanks to the Middletown firefighters and a local business.

When Debbie Barnett stepped out of her Roosevelt Boulevard house Wednesday morning, she was overwhelmed to see seven firefighters digging holes. She shed a few tears, and then said: “There are still miracles and good people in this world. Every one of them is going to heaven because they’re really, really good guys. I don’t have the words to tell them thank you. They’re amazing.”

Middletown Chief Paul Lolli said he learned about the Barnett’s situation after talking to Debbie, a longtime employee at the Applebee’s in Middletown. The firefighters agreed to build the ramp and use money they raised in their golf outing. That money is earmarked for local veterans.

“It was a perfect fit,” said Lt. David VonBargen of the Middletown Division of Fire. “We are here to help people.”

Lolli then talked to one of his good friends, Scott Ricke, project manager for Deceuninck North America, based in Monroe. Ricke contacted the company CEO who wanted to add his assistance. The company donated the decking and railing, valued at $2,500 to $3,000.

Ricke said he was impressed by the firefighters and their desire to assist those in the community where they work.

“That’s a great thing,” he said.

Lolli added: “This is what firefighters like to do best: build things and make it better for people.”

The project is expected to be complete by Thursday. What will her husband’s reaction when he sees the ramp?

“He’s gonna cry,” she said. “When I told him he was so excited. He’s real determined to come home.”

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