Sunday, August 28, 2011

Purple Heart Homes

Highly motivated  Iraq war veterans Dale Beatty and John Gallina
 Iraq war veterans Dale Beatty and John Gallina

This is a quite remarkable story. A story of personal healing and transformation. A story of success. An American story. A story that should inspire everyone searching for meaning in these economically difficult times. 

Dale Beatty and John Gallina are two friends who joined the North Carolina National Guard in 1996 when they were still in high school. 

The two men were deployed to Iraq where they almost died together when they drove over an anti-tank mine in their humvee. They both survived, but their lives changed forever on that ominous day in November 2004. Dale lost both legs. John sustained traumatic brain injury, multiple cuts and bruises, damaged back, and suffers from a severe post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Upon their return home, Dale was offered some help from the home builders association in North Carolina, while John was left with very little support. 

The home builders in Statesville, NC, offered to build a home on Dale's family land and Dale helped to build it. It wasn't a fancy home, but it was designed to accommodate a double amputee. 

Dale realized that working on his home together with others brought some comfort and relief he did not experience on days when he wasn't working. He decided to ask his friend John to join him. 

John who has a background in construction, experienced his own transformation while working on Dale's home. The physical work initiated a healing process and gave John enormous satisfaction and a sense of peace he was not able to experience otherwise. 

The two friends took their experience to the next stage. When the construction of Dale's home was finished, they decided to form an organization dedicated to construction and re-construction of homes for the disabled war veterans. They called it the Purple Heart Homes. 

The soldiers are trained never to leave a fallen fellow soldier in the field, but they are also aware of the fact that very often those who survived on the front are left completely alone when they return home. Although the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seem to be a bit better taken care of than the Vietnam veterans, many of them fall into an emotional limbo upon their return. 

Very often they remain unemployed, lose their spouses and friends, become homeless. Some become violent and turn to life of crime or commit suicide. 

It is an outrage that the veterans do not receive the support they deserve. But receiving "alms" can be just as demoralizing as receiving none since the greatest satisfaction comes from the sense of purpose and the genuine acknowledgment of their war experience. 

I believe that in today's handout society the story of Dale and John is an inspiration for all of us. Instead of waiting for things to simply happen, we should follow their example and take action. Our dignity lies in our ability to recognize our own strength and live it despite the circumstances we are in.

By Dominique Allmon ©2011

To find out more about the Purple Heart Homes please click here