A retired machinist living near Rough River Lake, in Falls of Rough, has recently dedicated himself to giving back to the wounded veterans whom he feels have sacrificed for America’s freedoms.
Rafeal Tipton worked as a machinist since he was a teenager and spent 20 years working for Kimberly-Clarke, in Daviess County. Living in Utica, outside of Owensboro, Tipton has had a place on the lake for the past 10 years and recently retired to live at the lake on a permanent basis.
He purchased a large building which he has turned into a machine shop and he and his wife live in a small apartment in the building while their new home is being constructed next door.
A motorcycle enthusiast, about 10 years Tipton decided he wanted to build his own bike, though many nay-sayers said it couldn’t be done. The results of that decision is the RDT-1, which stand for Research & Development Tipton 1, a standard motorcycle with two wheels. All of Tipton’s bikes sport the art work of Nathan Woosley, an Owensboro artist.
Tipton is not a veteran, but with all the recent news about wounded veterans returning home and trying to rebuild disrupted lives, he wanted to do something for those vets.
“I love my country,” he said. “It’s something that has always been inside me and I wanted to somehow give back to all these guys who give us our freedom.”
Tipton said he wanted to do a tribute of some kind, but wasn’t sure if he needed to have permission to do so, so he asked a friend from Owensboro, Matt Burton, about what he needed to do.
A veteran himself, Burton has a disabled veteran son who has received a lot of help from the military, and Burton had connections with other vets, some of whom are of high ranks.
Burton had the suggestion of getting in touch with one of the many foundations that have sprung up in recent years which are dedicated to aiding wounded veterans. The one they ultimately connected with is the Combat Wounded Coalition, headquartered in Chesapeake, Va.
The Combat Wounded Coalition was founded by Jason Redman, a Navy SEAL who was severely wounded in Iraq in 2007. In 2010, Redman founded Wounded Wear, which created a special line of free clothing and clothing modifications for veterans suffering incapacitating injuries.
He based the clothing on the results of the difficulties he himself faced following his injuries. To date, the organization has contributed over $1 million worth of clothing to wounded vets.
In 2014, Redman expanded his organization and changed the name to the Combat Wounded Coalition. The restructured organization and its works are broken down into four parts: Pride (Wounded Wear Clothing); Power (recreational activities; Purpose (jobs, education and housing); Peace (non-pharmaceutical solutions to Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Traumatic Brain Injuries).
The coalition works to provide returning vets with purpose-driven lives and helps them cope with the emotional problems that sometimes plague their lives. It is estimated that 22 vets a day take their own lives.
The coalition hooked up Tipton with Tyler Southern, a triple-amputee veteran from St. Augustine, Fla. It was originally planned that Tipton would donate RDT-7, what he calls the “Purple Heart Trike,” to Southern, but when they met in March at the “Toast of Heroes” banquet, in Virginia, it became obvious that they would have to have a change of plans.
Southern wanted to be able to ride the trike without the use of prosthetics, which he would not be able to do with the Purple Heart Trike. So it was decided that Tipton would donate that trike to the coalition, to be raffled off in a fund-raiser, and Tipton would create another trike specially constructed to Southern’s needs.
There will be a special presentation of the Trike to the coalition at the annual Sturgis Bike Week, a gathering of a half a million bikers in Sturgis, South Dakota. It will also be announced that Tipton will be making the other trike specifically designed for Southern, which will be presented to Southern during the Bike Week in 2017.
Southern and Tipton will be getting together sometime within the next few months to get all the measurements Tipton will need to build the trike, either here or in Florida. Tipton has already inspected Southern’s vehicles to see what special adjustments were made to them and said he has a pretty good idea of what it will take.
“It won’t be easy, but we’ll get it done,” he said.
Tipton said he is doing this for one reason.
“It’s not about money or exposure,” he said. “This is straight from the heart… it’s all about what these guys do for us.”
Reach Don Brown at 259-9622, ext. 2016.