For years, Bobby Crutsinger and his wife, Peggy, provided shelter for homeless veterans wherever they found them by giving away tents.
Then, an idea hit Bobby. Well, actually, the idea came to him after a recreational vehicle (RV) that belonged to a friend hit a tree.
“The last five years we must have given thousands of tents away,” Bobby said. “Then, about a week before Christmas (in 2020) I had a friend give me an old RV. It was a 45-footer and they had hit a tree, but me and two guys rebuilt it.”
And Bobby knew just what was the best use of their refurbished project. The Weatherford couple gave it to a three-time decorated war veteran who had no home.
“He tried to apply for government help, but they haven’t given him anything,” Bobby recalled. “We looked at the RV and said, why not let this be his home?’
“Then, I said if we can do it for this one, we can do it for others.”
So, Operation Texas Strong 2021 was launched on Jan. 1. Now, the nonprofit organization has repaired, refurbished and gathered more than 50 recreational and camping vehicles for their cause. They get them from all over, even as far away as Colorado.
“I wanted to show vets they’re still loved and cared for. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have our freedom,” he said. “I knew it would grow, but as quickly as it has grown has just blown me away.”
The idea to help veterans arose when Peggy’s father died in 2018 from pneumonia she said was caused by Agent Orange he encountered, as did many others, while serving in the Vietnam War.
“I don’t agree with how little is being done for our vets, so I made that promise to him that I would do whatever I could to help any veteran in need,” Peggy said, fighting back a tear. “When I see a vet, I see my father.”
Overcoming his own battle
Bobby never enlisted in the military because he has asthma. His family heritage, however, has plenty of military connections, with his grandfather having been a master sergeant, his dad having served in the Air Force and his brother a former military police officer.
But Bobby had his own battle — with drugs — for more than seven years. Winning that fight inspires him today at age 43 and nine years sober, he said.
“I’ve been through a struggle in life, and now I want to do what I can to keep others from struggling,” he said. “I could have gone to heaven several times, but God let me stay on earth, and I believe this is a reason why.”
Bobby even has a tattoo on his arm as a reminder of where he’s been and an encouragement to keep himself and others moving forward.
“The Crutsingers are two of the most compassionate and down-to-earth people I’ve met,” said good friend Seth Seeling, who has helped with renovations. “They are eagerly fighting the housing crisis for our homeless veterans, and I’m honored to be serving alongside them.”
Bobby and Peggy have been married 22 years and have four children: sons R.J., 21; Jay, 17; Christopher Nolan, 14; and daughter Katy, 19. They own a towing company and a small resale store.
But, next to their children, the thing dearest to their hearts is Operation Texas Strong. Sure, they could refurbish the vehicles and campers and resell them, but as Bobby proclaimed, “Everything doesn’t have to revolve around money.”
Not all of their products go to homeless vets. They have also given about a half dozen to others who are homeless, including a single mother with three children.
“That’s the best feeling when you can hand that title over to someone and say this is your new home,” Bobby said. “One said he hadn’t taken a bath in two years. When he got his RV he took a bath for five hours.”
Seeling added, “These are the same veterans that fought for our freedoms, and seeing their smiles and grasping those firm handshakes in appreciation tells me they are changing lives for the better, with dignity and respect.”
Others helping out for the cause
Others are joining Bobby and Peggy in their mission, he said. In fact, some of the RVs are donated by veterans themselves, he noted.
“One knew Peggy’s father. It’s just a big circle of life,” Bobby said. “I’ve got boxes filled with blankets, pillows, sheets, just dropped off by Amazon because people want to help.”
As to what folks do with the vehicles, Bobby said some folks are helping pay for campgrounds through donations, while others are allowing use of land where they can be parked. Others are using the vehicles to get themselves to family members elsewhere so they can start a new life.
“My dream is to someday have about 150 acres with their own resources. No guns or drugs will be allowed on the property,” Bobby said. “I will get it built, that’s my dream.
“We want to go all over the United States with this. My goal is to have every town out there have something like this.”