By MARINA WATERS
On Saturday, June 23, retired U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Hall received two things; a newly built home for his family in his hometown and a start at a new life.
Hall, along with his wife, MaKayla, and young son, Liam, finally got the chance to open the door of their brand new house to friends, family and supporters during the key ceremony in their new Jonesborough neighborhood.
“It’s mind-blowing,” Hall said. “This just means a lot. I didn’t really know until yesterday how much went into coordinating all of this. You can’t really put it into words. I don’t even know how it’s going to be (in the new house), but I know that I am grateful and I’m sure I’ll be more grateful every day that goes by.”
Hall didn’t get just any kind of house; the non-profit organization, Homes For Our Troops, built the Hall family a one-story, specialized home with over 40 special adaptations, which they build for post Sept. 11 veterans who have been severely wounded.
Hall retired from the Army after suffering a serious injury during his second tour in Afghanistan in 2012. There, he was part of the 82nd Airborne Division and was conducting a damage assessment after a firefight when his left heel triggered an improvised explosive device. The blast sent him 30 feet in the air and left him without his left leg and with severe damage to his right leg. He also suffered a broken pelvis, a fractured sacrum and several fractured vertebrae.
“I’d like to say that literally dying made me have this great epiphany and I never took another day for granted, but I didn’t,” Hall said. “But now, I’m glad that I lost my leg. I’m glad that I hurt all the time, I’m glad that I have to deal with every one of these challenges and can’t wait to face more of them because God has used that to finally teach me to rely on Him for everything, to be joyful and grateful no matter what.”
And his joy and gratefulness didn’t end in his driveway.
Hall expressed gratitude throughout the new home, which is complete with widened doorways for wheelchair access and holds over 40 special adaptations such as a roll-in shower and special kitchen amenities. It’s all thanks to HFOT who, after completing Hall’s home, has built 256 homes for injured veterans throughout the U.S.
For the Massachusetts-based group, projects such as this aren’t just about giving back to veterans who have made sacrifices to secure our nation’s freedom — it’s also about acting on their tagline “building homes and rebuilding lives”.
HFOT President and retired Brigadier General Tom Landwermeyer said the home not only offers a safe environment in which a wounded veteran can more easily move around and safely conduct every day activities such as cooking or taking a shower, but it also offers a new lease on life found through being able to do more activities in these homes.
“It rolls into freedom and independence. All these folks, just like all of us, are fiercely independent. You don’t want to have to rely on anyone else to help you do every thing on a daily basis. But a lot of times, these severely injured veterans end up like that because of the situation,” Landwermeyer said.
“It’s tremendous for the spouses and caregivers and a lot of people don’t think about that. The home should be the place you rest. It should be where you go to relax. And this is where this family should be able to go to relax too.”
Hall said he felt the house would offer him an easier lifestyle than the one he’s been living since his injury.
“Rehab has been a long and never-ending process and everywhere I’ve lived since then has each had a unique set of challenges,” Hall said. “I’ve had to deal with several flights of stairs, rails breaking off of stairs, hopping and falling in the shower, not being able to take off my leg because I can’t get the wheelchair through a narrow door and get my kid in the middle of the night.”
He also said he feels differently about his struggles than he did in the past. Now, he sees them as another obstacle to over come rather than a potential roadblock.
“I used to wish that after I moved out of the handicapped accessible environment of Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center) that I moved straight into this house and didn’t have to deal with the challenges that all the different apartments and rental houses presented. I don’t feel that way anymore.”
Now that Hall is back in his hometown with his wife and son in their new home, Landwermeyer mentioned that Hall is considering becoming a police officer.
For now, Hall said he’s ready to discover just what it means to live and enjoy life in a house that is less of an obstacle and more of a home.
“This house allows me to train and exercise harder, work harder, play with my son more,” Hall said. “I can do more with my wife, spend more time with my family and not leave anything in the tank because I have to put my leg on to go to the bathroom, to get a drink of water or get Liam something to eat and put him to bed. It allows me to make my wife breakfast, even if I’m sore or in pain.
“It allows me to live my life in ways I’m sure I’m yet to discover.”