ROBSTOWN, Texas — There’s a happy ending for a disabled Vietnam veteran who paid a contractor to install a shower only to have that contractor disappear weeks later.
As is often the case, response to our story about Pedro Lerma was overwhelming. His story particularly struck a cord with a retired Marine who's new to the Coastal Bend.
“We're going to make this bathroom like it deserves to be for him,” said Shawn Chaufty.
Chaufty knows Lerma's struggles. His father, a Vietnam veteran like Lerma, went through them as well.
“My father served in Vietnam from '67-'69,” said Chaufty. “He was wounded in Vietnam, he was paralyzed from the waist down.”
That's why Lerma's story hit home with Chaufty, who saw his father's struggles first hand. So, out of the kindness of his heart, this retired Marine offered to finish Lerma's bathroom out of his own pocket.
“I wouldn't have minded paying, but if he can help me, it's a tremendous help,” said Lerma.
“He's a hero,” said Chaufty when asked why he wanted to help. “Everyone who puts on a uniform, whether it's for two years or thirty years, they're heroes in our community.”
Chaufty wore the uniform of the U.S. Marine Corps for 23 years. Even though he recently moved here from California and had never met Lerma, Chaufty considers Lerma his brother.
What Chaufty saw was a brother in need.
“I have a responsibility and I think everybody in our community has the responsibility to step up and say 'I want to make this right for you', and that's what I want to do,” said Chaufty.
Not only is Chaufty making Mr. Lerma's bathroom right, he's volunteered to renovate his wife’s bathroom as well. While he doesn’t own a contracting business, he has plenty of experience in home repair.
“I know the effort that it takes after watching my mom work so hard to take care of my dad,” said Chaufty. “I know how hard she works to take care of Mr. Lerma, she deserves it as well.”
Lerma is grateful for the gesture.
“I would have had to get someone else,” said Lerma of the second bathroom project. “I don't know if I could have trusted the guy or not.”
Chaufty also set up a GoFundMe page to help the Lermas with other needed repairs around their home.
Meanwhile, the original contractor, Rene Quintanilla, Jr. told KRIS Communications and the Lermas that he'll be refunding them $500 of the $1,500 they paid him.