Vietnam veteran spends time helping stranded drivers for free

Being stuck on the side of the road with car trouble can make for a really awful day. Around Atlanta, we have H.E.R.O. trucks. The Highway Emergency Response Operators help stranded drivers but there's one man who's been helping drivers all around the country, for nearly forty years.

Walt Brinker is a H.E.R.O. too, only he operates out of his own car. As a hobby, he helps provide roadside assistance, free of charge. The 72-year old from North Carolina has stopped to help well over 2,000 vehicles. Now, he's put his hands on knowledge into a book, to help more drivers out there.

Walt Brinker still remembers the first stranded driver he ever stopped to help in Kansas, back in 1980. "I gave her the jump start and two things hit me right between the eyes when I finished, number one was how relieved she was, and the second thing was how good it made me feel. I said, 'I have to do more of this...I feel wonderful.'" explains Walt.

Since then, he's collected more tools and more knowledge, to be able to help with just about any roadside problem. "I can do it so quickly now, and it's so painless...and it feels so good to do it, when I can, I do it." he adds.

Walt spent two combat tours in Vietnam, and says one way he keeps his PTSD in check, is by helping others. "I've had a good life. I was very lucky to survive all the stuff that happened to be there.  I survived it all, I went on to marry and have five great kids.  Life has been good to me, and I figured, here's a way I can give back also."

The retired, 72-year old calls it a hobby, not a job. If he's ever worried about his safety, or in a rush, then he keeps driving, but if he's bored, or stressed, he just hops in "White Lightning," his 1989 Honda Accord and starts looking toward the shoulder.

"I was coming in from work one day and I stopped for a woman about 20 years younger than I was. Changed the tire in 10 minutes, and when it was all finished she looked at me and said, 'Are you married?'" Laughs Walt.

While the North Carolina man has collected hundreds of stories to share, he's also collected an immense amount of knowledge. He says 75-percent of  the trouble he sees involves tires, while the other 25-percent is a combination of running out of gas, overheating engines, being locked out or battery connection issues.

"90% of people who break down do not need a mechanic, some do, most don't. My whole thing is you can prevent these breakdowns if you do certain things, and if you do break down and you have some goodies in your car, you can bail yourself out," he encourages.

Walt recently put all his knowledge into a book, "Roadside Survival: Low Tech Solutions to Automobile Breakdowns."

"There are 200 million drivers in the country, this is my best shot at reaching those drivers. I cannot do it one at a time...I know that...although, I still try, but the best way to get to the masses is through a book," says Walt,

Walt's book is 100-percent based on his first hand experiences and trunk of tricks. Right now, he's working with driver's education departments with hopes they can incorporate some of it into their curriculum for teen drivers. 

Part Two of our story with Walt will air November 22nd. We talk with him about his book, tips and advice. In the meantime you can get more on his website: