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'He’s a wonderful man' | Vietnam veteran dedicated to saving animals recognized as Hyundai Hometown Hero

"I’m trying to make sure this is still real," David Parkins said when he was surprised with a brand new 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Our nation's heroes meet regularly at Richard’s Coffee Shop in Mooresville because the coffee shop is also a military museum.

David Parkins, a U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran, serves on the Board of Directors for the Welcome Home Veterans Living Military Museum.

Parkins is an animal lover who drives thousands of miles every month, rescuing dogs and cats from various shelters before they can be euthanized.

"What David does is just beyond words," Jim Kiger, a fellow veteran and friend of Parkins, said.

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“He literally will sacrifice his body, his mind, everything for these animals," his friend Ansel Brown said. "He will do anything for you. He’s an amazing guy. He really is.” 

Credit: WCNC Charlotte
David Parkins with one of the dogs he's rescued

WCNC Charlotte's Sarah French took a trip to Richard's Coffee Shop to meet Parkins. 

He thought WCNC Charlotte was there to do a story on the veterans' meeting and the coffee shop’s brand-new logo and sign, but he got a big surprise instead.

“I just want to say on behalf of WCNC, thank you so much for your service," French said. "It is such an honor to be here, but we are actually here for something else as well ... David, can you come here?”

Parkins was in shock. 

"We have been looking for our Hyundai Hometown Hero," French clarified. "We’ve been in search of a veteran."

Parkins started to cry.

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"We are actually here to announce that David, you are our Hyundai Hometown Hero," French said with excitement.

The crowd cheered for Parkins.

"But that’s not all David," French added. "We have our friends from the Charlotte area Hyundai dealers. We heard a lot of stories about you driving all over and saving animals."

Ray Andersen of Fort Mill Hyundai stepped up to speak. 

"On behalf of the Hyundai Dealers of the Carolinas, I just want to present you with this 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe," Anderson said. 

As Parkins walked outside, he started to cry again. 

"I’m trying to make sure this is still real," he said.

Anderson showed him around his new ride, including GPS navigation and heated seats. 

"This is absolutely beautiful," Parkins said.

Credit: WCNC Charlotte
David Parkins checking out his new ride

Everyone agreed, he deserved the new vehicle.

"He works so hard for the veterans and for the animals," Jackie Parkins, David's wife, chimed in.

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"What he does for animals, I don’t know anybody that has the kind of enthusiasm and love that David does," Kiger said. "You guys got it right, he’s a wonderful man!" 

Credit: WCNC Charlotte
David Parkins with the animals he's rescued

Parkins' new car is going to help him continue to save so many animals.

"This afternoon, I’m going down to Monroe and rescuing two dogs they were going to kill," Parkins started to cry. "I just refuse to stand by and see all these beautiful dogs and cats put down."

"You wouldn’t want a better friend," Bill Hord, a veteran and Parkins' friend, said "I’m blessed to know him."

Contact Sarah French at Sarah@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

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