Family of disabled veteran collects license plates to bring him joy

BENTON, Ky. – Some like to collect stamps, others like to collect shoes, and some, like disabled military veteran Jeff Turner, just like to collect!

Jeff Turner, an avid collector, received an exciting gift from his wife, Erica, and daughter, a Western Kentucky University Alumn, Hannah Turner Reagle.

Together, alongside friends and family, they collected one license plate from each of the 50 states!

“My family members got involved and friends and even his VA doctor sent one. They all were like, ‘Oh my goodness, Jeff is collecting license plates. We have a family member that lives here. I can get you this one,’ and so everybody just pitched in,” said Erica.

Jeff suffers from a condition called spinocerebellar ataxia type 2.

The genetic condition leads to problems with movement and can cause a decline in intellectual function, each worsening over time.

He was diagnosed in 1996 after, doctors say, he received a series of inoculations while in military boot camp.

According to his family, doctors say the series of inoculations given on a specific day were “more likely than not” linked to the start of the symptoms of the condition that began shortly after.

The avid collector was unable to do as much collecting after his condition worsened, so his wife and daughter decided to help him out with a unique collection.

“To see people actually come together and find that and then to know that that’s making my dad happy, you know, makes me super joyful for him. Because he’s one of the happiest people that I know. Like, he really has no complaints in life. He’s always said since I was little, ‘There’s people in the world that have it worse than me,’” said Hannah.

“It was, for me, to help him have a sense of purpose or accomplishment, something to set out to do since he’s not able to get out to the community as much as he used to be. We all need to feel like we have a purpose, you know, and that was just for him, that was a big accomplishment,” said Erica.

The disease is genetic, so Hannah could also have the gene. She has chosen not to test for it yet because there is no treatment right now. But, she says, she may get tested for the gene before deciding whether or not to have children.

“I definitely would just love to know that it stopped with me, you know, I don’t want to pass this down any further,” said Hannah.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, spinocerebellar ataxia is quite rare but is more common in Cuba where about .04% of the population is affected.