Can you say “hard-headed?” (And to my family and E….leave it alone. )
Project will give wounded vets their own homes
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Four years ago, U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Paul Gardner, 25, was shot under his left arm while searching a neighborhood for insurgents in Iraq. The bullet struck his heart and spine, leaving him severely injured.
Since then, he’s had close to 20 surgeries, more than 480 hours in physical therapy and spent almost two years on and off again in VA hospitals.
He could foresee more surgeries in his future, but did not really envision being a homeowner anytime soon.
But on Tuesday afternoon, Gardner attended a ground-breaking ceremony at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center where a new home was donated to him and his fiancee, 22-year-old Ashley Jones.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “We did a little happy dance when we found out.”
Gardner’s home is the first of 15 houses that will be built in the Houston area within the next year for severely wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The product of a partnership formed between Mayor Bill White, Houston Area Rotary Clubs and the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, the project’s goal is to help disabled veterans ease back into civilian life.
“Too often vets say assistance comes too little, too late or there is someone on the end of a toll-free number that doesn’t care,” White said Tuesday during the ceremony. “We want to eliminate those kinds of barriers.”
White also announced that on June 25 a communitywide summit, similar to the leadership group established during Hurricane Katrina, will take place. The summit will involve city officials and all agencies that work with disabled veterans to find more solutions to aid those troops returning home from war.
“We want Houston to be the place that eases the transition quickly and does not forget we have some severely injured troops,” White said. “They need a network that will never forget.”
Houston Area Rotary Clubs also launched a “community shower,” where boxes will be placed at 160 area Prosperity, Sterling and Woodforest National banks where people can drop off gift cards starting today through June 15. The cards will then be dispersed to wounded veterans’ families.
The catalyst for the project was a home built for U.S. Army Pfc. Kenneth Adams in 2005 by the Coalition and the Houston Area Rotary Clubs. Adams was accidentally shot in the head while helping a fellow soldier clean his weapon in Afghanistan a year earlier. The bullet went through his left cheek and exited his forehead, blinding him and destroying the frontal lobe of his brain.
Adams said that while he feels lucky for all that he has received, he acknowledged that it has been very difficult for many other wounded troops to transition back into civilian life.
“To me, it’s kind of like playing the lottery,” he said. “If you win, you win. If not, you’ve got to keep playing to get those services that can help you continue your life.”