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Veteran Tim Gardipee sits in the parking of lot of the Corso Apartments, where a trailer containing his new TrackChair, a specialized off-road wheelchair that helped Gardipee get outdoors, was recently stolen. The chair and trailer were found over the weekend.

Rebekah Welch, Missoulian

The off-road tracked wheelchair stolen from a local veteran last week was found and returned over the weekend. 

The trailer containing retired Army Lt. Col. Tim Gardipee's TrackChair, a motorized wheelchair with tank-like treads for better outdoor mobility, was stolen outside his apartment sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. 

A Facebook post by the Missoula Police Department detailing the theft and asking the community to be on the lookout received nearly 3,000 shares and hundreds of comments over the weekend before the trailer was found Sunday morning.

"I loved the overwhelming response from thousands and thousands of people," Gardipee said. "It went nationwide." 

According to police, someone called them after seeing the trailer abandoned around the Evaro Hill area. Gardipee, who received the trailer through the Wounded Warrior project, was thankful his property was found and still in good condition. 

"You can hike the trails, but I can't," Gardipee said. "I have to use the rough terrain wheelchair."

The specially designed wheelchairs are not cheap, with prices ranging above $9,000 depending of the specifications of the model. TrackChairs can be customized to meet the needs of the user, from headlights to mountable gun racks and more. 

Gardipee, who retired from the military in 2013, was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq in 2008. After the theft, he is taking extra security precautions, and considering the purchase of cameras and wheel-locks for the trailer. 

When asked if he had any word for whomever took his property, Gardipee replied, "Your days are numbered because the sheriffs are going to get you soon. That was a very low thing to do."

Missoula County Undersheriff Rich Maricelli said Monday that an investigation continues.

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