Since our founding in 1883, Lucchese has a long history of American military support and boot customization. In 2018, Lucchese first collaborated with Boots for the Brave, an organization dedicated to helping U.S. Army veterans who were injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each pair of boots is purchased for a veteran by a sponsor donor. By partnering with Boots for the Brave, our goal is to build a pair of custom boots that function harmoniously with the veterans’ prosthetics.
These veterans have suffered leg amputations leading the past years to discover new ways to adjust to their injuries. Ferris Butler, a veteran from the 2018 event stated, “I haven’t been able to wear a pair of cowboy boots since I lost my feet, and I used to wear them daily.”
This fall, Lucchese held our 2nd annual fitting event at our factory in El Paso, hosting 14 combat injured amputee veterans. Each veteran was able to personally customize their style of boot. Our expert boot artisans in El Paso could then begin to design these boots to fit the veterans’ prosthetic devices.
During this event, we asked a few of the veterans to share their stories and explain why it’s important to have a shoe that fits properly.
The first veteran we visited with was Jake Keeslar. Jake joined the Army after graduating from high school in 1990. In 2005, Jake was stationed in Alaska as a Section Sergeant for a Light Cavalry Troop and deployed to Iraq for 6 months. On June 27, 2006, he hit an IED that was buried deep in the ground. “It was like skin around broken bones,” he said. He was taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center shortly after and began his therapy there. He was in the hospital for 15 months with two amputations — one above and one below the knee. After 20 years in the Army, he retired in 2011.
As Jake got fitted for his Lucchese boots, he stated, “It’s very important for us as amputees to be able to walk with the right boot. It’s also important to make sure the heel is reduced, so we won’t have any difficulty. Having the right fit provides me with a lot of confidence when I walk because I know I will not fall.”
We then asked veteran Clayton Hinchman about his story in the Army. Clayton served for five years as an Infantry Officer. He earned his Airborne and Air Assault wings and graduated as the Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School. He said, “I was always training because I knew I wanted to be an airborne ranger. I finally found something that I was really good at.”
Clayton was in New York City when 9/11 occurred. Two weeks after the attack, he began to see all of these flyers of first responders for those who were never found. That’s when he decided he wanted to defend his country. May 10, 2008, is the day he will never forget. It was the day he stepped on a pressure wire when he was conducting a night raid in Iraq, which led him to medically retire.
As Clayton was in the showroom getting fitted, he said, “It’s a blessing because I was wounded 11 years ago, and there’s still people thinking about us as veterans — to know you’re not forgotten. You see this family environment within the Lucchese community. These people are taking their time and money to help us. I cannot wait to tell the story about Lucchese to the world.”
The next veteran we talked with was Preston Jackson who joined the Army in 2000 and was assigned to the 101st airborne division in Tennessee. In May 2008 while deployed, his convoy was hit by an IED. Preston sustained critical injuries resulting in the loss of his right leg and damaged to the left leg. He said, “My legs were like chicken legs. I passed out when I got to the hospital and woke up two weeks later in Germany.” Preston retired after 12 years and already hates it. He said, “I loved my job as a solider. I love being around the guys. I’ve been working since I was 15, and I just don’t like it.” As Preston got fitted for his Lucchese boots, he said, “It’s an honor to be here. These boots are beautiful, and I cannot wait to get a pair of them.”
The last veteran we visited with was Robert Canine who was enlisted in the Army in 1999. He was only planning on serving for three to four years; however, he ended up falling in love with it. During his 11 years of service, he was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and in 2008. He said, “The biggest threat was the roadside bombs. We started going pretty slow because we knew something was up. It was a roadside bomb that we passed and was initiated. It knocked me out. I began seeing golden sparks, and none of my senses were working. Later on, stuff started to load back up. I opened my eyes to see that everything was wrecked and shattered. I lost both of my legs below the knee. I tried to call the radio, but it was dead, and my weapon was broke. I would’ve died in there if it wasn’t for my guys.”
Robert was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he spent 18 months rehabilitating. Robert served 11 years and 3 months and retired as a Staff Sergeant. Ever since his retirement, he has been an advocate for veterans as a loan officer. Robert said, “Two years went by and I tried to ignore the injury, but the depression really hit me in the face at the time. I had a bit of a meltdown. I continue to make small steps in my life to get better. I work on myself every day. I miss the Army all the time. I want to go back, but my wife will continue to tell me I’m nuts.” As Robert was customizing his Lucchese boots, he said, “It’s amazing to know y’all have got our backs and help support veterans.”
The goal of this project is to improve one’s quality of life by helping them to feel confident and comfortable when walking again. According to veteran, Lonnie Moore, “It’s overwhelming. I’ll go buy a pair of tennis shoes, but I will never get exactly what I need. Something is off or something feels weird with the shoe. Luckily, Lucchese provides a different level of work that goes into your average pair of running shoes. It’s an honor to be here and know that there are people who care enough to donate their time and money for this cause. As I was walking on the manufacturing floor and seeing all the quality craftsmanship and American pride that went into their work, it would be a true pleasure to wear them.” Lucchese is proud to be able to support these U.S. Army veterans and help them get back to their daily lives.
Lucchese proudly supports our U.S. military. Lucchese.com offers a military discount of 15% to active duty military. When placing an order online, please register an account with your military email address ending in .mil. Then the 15% discount will be applied automatically in the shopping cart at checkout.
The final boots will be presented to this class of veterans in June 2020 during a special weekend event in Frisco, Texas. To get involved with the Boots for the Brave program, contact Ferris Butlerat firstname.lastname@example.org.