GUILFORD TOWNSHIP -- Saturday's groundbreaking ceremony didn't just mark the beginning of a new home for Marine Sgt. Zachary Stinson, but also a new life post-injury for he and his family in a community that has rallied to support them.
While life for Stinson, his wife, Tesa, and their daughter, Olivia, has been forever changed since he lost both his legs on Nov. 9, 2010, to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, they've been thankful for all the love and support they've received from family, friends and even people they've never met as they continue the move forward.
"It's completely amazing to see all these faces," Stinson said at Saturday's groundbreaking. "This has been incredible. I couldn't ask for a better place to call home."
Their next step forward includes a new specialized home with the help of Homes For Our Troops, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 to help severely-injured veterans and their immediate families.
Since 2010, the family has mostly lived in hospitals and temporary homes, Stinson said. A home in North Carolina where they lived right after he got out of the hospital just didn't fit their needs. And while their current townhouse in the Shippensburg area is better, Homes For Our Troops will build one that provides more freedom and independence.
With the help of local volunteers, including Stinson's mother-in-law Tracy Burk, who organized many fundraisers, Homes For Our Troops hopes to have everything completed in three to four months.
"Today, we are surrounded by heroes," said spokeswoman Ashley Twigg. "Homes For Our Troops at its heart is a grassroots organization. It's our boots on the ground in every project that determines its success."
In this country, there are more than 50,000 members of the military who have received a Purple Heart, said Homes For Our Troops President Tim McHale. For the 15,000 recipients who have been classified as severely wounded though, life is never truly the same.
"That's why we are here today," McHale said. "He's sacrificed so much. Every day of his life Zach Stinson knows what Afghanistan is like and it will never be in his rearview mirror."
This story is being played out all across these United States, in communities large and small. It will be taken by many as proof that people do care, that there is genuine concern and support for our soldiers and their sacrifices.
With that thought I do not disagree--it shows the best in all of us.
But I take another message from this: that our government, who was quite willing to place troops in harm's way, has dropped the ball on then taking care of those troops. Bottom line is that if we put troops in harm's way, and they get harmed, then we have the moral obligation to take care of them. Forever. No brainer. I've previously blogged here about the Earth-Bound Misfit's common-sense take on this:
If we, as a nation, are unwilling to shoulder the financial burden of caring for our military retirees and veterans, then this is what we should do: Stop making so many veterans by getting into wars. When the shooting starts, there are going to be maimed veterans who will need care for the next eighty years. If that cost is unacceptable to the politicians, then stop sending men and women off to fight. No fighting, no combat veterans to care for-- that should be a simple enough equation for even most politicians to grasp.
Awesome as Homes For Our Troops is, it is an organization that should not exist. ALL OF US--via the Veterans Administration--should be paying for and administering this program. Injured vets should never have to rely upon the goodwill and charity of others.