Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center
Disability? None for this Vietnam War Veteran
A popular Veteran, VA employee, and former volunteer, Walt Mabe is riding off into the sunset, deciding to retire following recent surgery.
Nearly 48-years ago, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated underneath then 19 year old Walt Mabe while he fought in the Vietnam War. The injury nearly cost him his life, but after losing much of his right leg on that day in 1967, he didn’t let the injury take his spirit for living life to the fullest. As a VA employee over the past six years, Walt Mabe has helped countless Veterans with everything from braces, to fitting and repairing prosthetics, wheelchairs, strollers, and walkers. His ability to overcome his own challenges time and time again is why he remains so effective with other Disabled Veterans; is respected by co-workers; and admired by his family and so many more.
Before becoming a VA employee, Mabe volunteered some 1,100 hours during 2009 when Spokane, WA hosted the Veterans Wheelchair Games. A USMC (Ret.) Veteran, Mabe has been a highly visible and valued member of every organization he’s ever been a part of, including Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center.
He is retiring as he approaches his 36th wedding anniversary with wife Melissa. With her by his side, along with two children and two grand-children, Mabe says, “my family is my greatest achievement. They are my everything, and make it all worthwhile. It’s just time for me to spend more time with them and on the things I want to do.
I don’t mind talking about [the injury] because I haven’t let the loss of a leg define who I am or prevent me from reaching the goals I set out to accomplish by living a full life,” he said. Mabe says he’s proud to have worked at the VA. “I wish all Veterans would just realize that the VA can truly help them by giving them the best care possible, and quite often, it’s provided by other Veterans who’ve also served.” He says he would “recommend all young adults do military time because it helps you grow and learn the importance of duty, discipline, learning a trade, and a better sense of what life is really like.”
In addition to being a lifetime member of his local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, Military Order of the Purple Heart and Marine Corps League, Mabe is also a founding member of the Inland Northwest Disabled Veterans Sports Association which earned a U.S. Olympic Committee grant to help Disabled Veterans stay active and engaged with other Veterans. He and several members of INDVSA also volunteer year after year to support Spokane’s Lilac Festival / Armed Forces Torchlight Parade by riding his motorized wheelchair through the parade route with MGVAMC’s entry - always thanking parade-goers for their support.
During his career, Mabe became certified to coach track & field, basketball and baseball. “And I enjoyed every bit of it,” he smiled. He competed on wheelchair basketball teams that went to national-level tournaments, Veterans Golden Age Games, and VA’s annual sports clinics.
Like Walt, many say they’re skeptical about how much Walt will really “retire” because he’s always on the go. “Walt had a tremendous positive impact on our physical therapy unit,” explained Dean Hopper, MPT, and a physical therapist at Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center. “You have no idea on how much Walt is going to be missed, because you’re not going to find a whole lot of Veterans who will jump out of their chair to help fix another Disabled Veteran’s need or issues and show them that he’s willing to lead by example, never letting his own disability get in his way. I mean, he cared so much he would bring his own tools and equipment to work to ensure that whatever project he was trying to help another Veteran with, he succeeded. He’s always found a way to give so much of himself, his time and effort to help other Veterans. We already miss him around here.”