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Disabled veteran wins big in Cash 5 lottery

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Thursday, June 14, 2012, 8:46 p.m.

Thanks to the Pennsylvania Lottery, a bit of good luck and "a blessing from the Man above," a disabled veteran is more than $120,000 richer.

Gary Hyer, 60, a resident of the Mechling Shakley Veterans Center, discovered he was one of two winners of the Cash 5 Lottery which earned him a gross total of $162,500.

A few weeks ago Hyer bought a ticket at the Shop 'n Save in East Franklin. When he checked his numbers a few days later he discovered he was a winner.

"I usually won anywhere from $2 to $5," Hyer said. "But when all the numbers seemed to check out I couldn't believe it. I went back and checked the numbers six times. I guess I was both happy and scared to death at the same time."

The big question in Hyer's mind was what he would do with his winnings. He said a thousand thoughts went through his mind. After getting over the initial shock of winning, Hyer formulated some concrete plans for his future.

A Navy veteran and formerly homeless, Hyer said that he was grateful that he wasn't "Out on the street," as he once was, when he hit the lottery. He has been a resident of the Center since November, 2011 and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

"I plan to stay here at the Center at least until April or May," he said. "I'm determined to spend my money wisely. I plan to buy a late model used car and a good computer. I also want to save a good sum of my money to buy a house, probably a fixer-upper, so at last I will have a home of my own. I've talked to a financial adviser and one thing I'm very sure about is that I'm not going to change the way I live now and go back to some of the things I did a few years ago.

"The people here at the Center have helped me to make positive changes in my life that I desperately need to make, so I'm not going to throw that away. God put me here for a reason and also gave me this money for a reason."

Hyer, who is part Native American, said that for the past several years he has been sending small donations to the St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Mont. He now plans to send the school a generous donation.

"I know that the Lottery will give Shop 'n Save a bonus or whatever for selling the winning ticket," he said, "but I'm going back to the store and find the girl who sold me the ticket and give her $50."

Last week Pennsylvania Lottery officials visited the Center to present Hyer with a giant mock check, which he now has hanging in his room. This week Hyer received an official check. After deducting about $40,000 for taxes, Hyer said he is exactly $121,875 richer.

"Not bad for a $3 ticket," he said.

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