A former soldier and his dog escaped death by mere inches this week as they walked on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 275 near Scribner, Nebraska.
Ken Brock, a former Army military police investigator, is walking from Florida to Idaho along with his PTSD service dog, Pam, to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. His journey took him to Scribner on Tuesday.
Brock stopped pushing his three-wheeled stroller cart to talk with a man who wanted to donate to his cause. Just then, an SUV attempted to pass a cattle truck on the two-lane highway, driving in the direction of Brock and his dog.
Once the driver passed the semi, he slammed on his brakes, Brock said, apparently noticing the pedestrians on the shoulder. But the SUV driver didn’t leave enough room for the semi to stop.
The semi then veered off the road and onto the shoulder where Brock and his dog were standing.
The semi driver steered away from the stroller cart. The 18-wheeler dug into the soft earth, slinging mud and gripping the edge of a ditch.
Brock turned the stroller 90 degrees to try to avoid getting hit. The semi clipped the front wheel of the cart, scraping the frame and bending the wheel. The impact demolished a bucket hanging from the cart’s rear handlebar.
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Somehow, Brock was unharmed. And so was Pam, his dog. She had somehow leaped from the stroller and tucked behind her owner.
“I thought for sure when I looked inside (the stroller) and didn’t see Pam that Pam was gone,” Brock said.
The semi driver had managed to squeeze between the ditch and the shoulder, avoiding harming Brock and his dog while still keeping the truck and its cattle upright.
“He jumped out of the truck and went straight over to the driver of that other car and he laid into that driver,” Brock said. “I told him, ‘I don’t know who trained you, but if there ever is an award, you need the driver of the year, the decade or the century.’ ”
Scribner Fire and Rescue was called to the area, about 2 miles east of town, at 4:32 p.m. Tuesday.
The first responders were flabbergasted when they heard about the close call. About 10 rescue personnel went to the scene.
“He had somebody looking after him,” said Chelsea Stockamp, an emergency medical responder who spoke with Brock at the firehouse in town.
The Scribner crew took Brock and Pam to the firehouse , where he was given a chicken dinner, took a shower and got a cot to sleep on overnight.
Brock began his journey in February, one month after his divorce became official. He said he served in the Army from 1984 to 1993 and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder so severe that he became reclusive. Holed up in his house, his weight eventually topped 300 pounds.
In September, he saw an ad for the Wounded Warrior Project and felt inspired. So he planned a route to walk from his house in Keystone Heights, Florida, to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where his son, daughter and six grandchildren live. He’s aiming to arrive by July 4.
Wednesday morning, Brock contemplated whether to get back on the road or quit. He said he wrestled with the decision for about 45 minutes, worrying about Pam’s safety. But his focus kept returning to the soldiers.
“I still have something to do for them,” he said. “I was put here for a reason. … I have to keep going.”
Thursday, Brock was planning to stay in West Point until replacement parts for his stroller cart arrive Friday. Then he planned to resume the journey toward Valentine, through the Black Hills and into Montana and Idaho.
To date, Brock has raised more than $4,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project. He’s accepting donations in person, via mail and online at bit.ly/2IUN7oZ. To follow his journey, visit facebook.com/ken.brock.7140.