ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Overgrown, weed-riddled and in dire need of a trim: That’s what Matthew Winkel’s lawn looked like after a recent fall down the stairs kept the Navy veteran from maintaining it.

“After getting hurt, the grass hadn’t quite started to grow yet, but not being able to tend to it and watching it get like this, it was more than just embarrassing,” he said. “It’s not me, it’s not how I would want our house to be represented.”

Lucky for him, a man on a mission has arrived.

“He’s doing an amazing mission,” Winkel said.

Rodney Smith Jr. (credit: CBS)

Rodney Smith Jr. is mowing Winkel’s yard for free. It’s part of his cross-country tour to mow a veteran’s lawn in all 50 states – his way of thanking them for their service.

“I want to put my best, my best work into this, make it look like how (Winkel) would want it to look. So once it gets done, I can’t wait to see the smile on his face,” Smith said.

Winkel compared Smith’s deed with that of service members.

“He’s serving his country right now in his country and I don’t even know how to express how grateful I am for the help,” Winkel said.

Smith has completed similar trips before, cutting grass for homeowners with disabilities. He also encourages kids to take his 50-yard challenge in which they mow 50 lawns for people in need.

“That’s absolutely fantastic. Not just giving back but also teaching the community to give back to itself,” Winkel said.

On this tour, Smith interviews the veterans to learn what called them to serve. He records the interview, then posts it along with a picture of the veteran to his many social media pages where he’s developed a supportive following.

“I met about three or four World War II veterans so far and whenever they tell me their stories, I’m like a little kid sitting there during story time,” he said. “Those stories are not going to be around forever. Sadly, that generation is slowly passing on and just to capture some of those stories, it’s just amazing.”

From simple conversation to sweat-inducing hard work, Smith’s selfless acts continue to inspire – a mission that, for him, happily has no end.

“My way of giving back is with a lawnmower and I hope to encourage others to do the same, one lawn at a time. But there’s many ways to give back,” he said.

To learn more about Rodney’s 50-yard challenge and his organization Raising Men Lawn Care Service, visit his website.

Jeff Wagner

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