After the tragedy of Virginia Tech in which time will heal the wounds of those left behind, it is always great to write of the kindness of one’s community. I love when a community can rally around a family in their time of need. It is fantastic to see it witnessed by millions around this country especially after seeing the ugly-side of man’s inhumanity to man. One just wishes that there were more shows like Extreme Makeover/Home Edition.
In recent months we have heard of the Walter Reed scandal in which our soldiers were housed in deplorable conditions. In 2004, one soldier who served in Iraq whose name is Gene Westbrook came home wounded from serving our country. As I watched the April 22nd episode of Extreme Makeover/Home Edition show on ABC, his wife Peggy relayed to the viewing audience that she did not recognize him when he came home. He too was sent to Walter Reed and as you read this family’s bio, he came home paralyzed from the waist down.
It was heartbreaking to read, “Gene had to jump through many hoops just to be able to afford a handicapped-accessible van that allowed him to drive.” That is disturbing on so many levels. Please think of that the next time any politician asks for a donation for his/her campaign or when it comes to the excessive spending due to pork.
It was this same van which led to the tragic car accident in which all family members were involved. One daughter lost a kidney, but the most heartbreaking injury is that Gene Westbrook’s son, James became paralyzed just like his dad and ended up in a wheel chair.
All of which landed this family on hard times living in a tiny house with medical bills totaling over one million dollars. So, while their home was not set up for these multiple medical needs, this wonderful show responded.
In this country we tend to discuss what freedom really means and with much different definitions. All Gene and James wanted was the freedom to move around in a home that was not suitable to meet these needs. How truly humbling that is.
In fact one of the daughters as she was showing Ty Pennington her bedroom, he asked where was her bed and she remarked that she had to sleep on the floor of her brother’s room in case he needed her in the middle of the night. I do not know about you, but when one thinks of the problems they have, hearing that, makes them seem small in comparison.
As I have stated in the past, one of my favorite parts of this show is the demolition process that takes place in which they rip down the old house. In this case, what was the only tool to be used to tear down the Westbrook home in preparation for their new one? It was a sixty-ton tank. As the family watched from a vacation spot, their smiles replaced the many years of sorrow. It was definitely hanky time.
One of the best gifts that Gene received was a wheelchair that was custom made in Switzerland. This amazing wheelchair allowed for him to stand for the first time since coming home from Iraq. As he wheeled it outside, he was met by many within this military community and they all saluted him. That was something he had not been able to do from a standing position since 2004. It did give him back part of the dignity lost due to his war wounds.
Also featured in that show was a wonderful program called Adopt-a-Soldier Now in which you as an American can take time out of your busy life to write a letter to our soldiers. On their web page they write, “We are a bridge to connect deployed soldiers with at home Americans. Our soldiers deserve to know that we care about and support them in their extremely dangerous assignments abroad. This is not about the politics of war, but about loving America’s sons and daughters in service.”
During this episode every single volunteer that showed up to help in the construction of this new home for the Westbrook family took part in a letter writing campaign in which 7,000 letters were sent off to Iraq. When they arrived at the post office, the clerk behind the counter knew she would be staying late to process all of these letters. Also sent with these letters were t-shirts with the Extreme Makeover/Home Edition logo.
I often see posts coming into my email box asking that I write this politician or that politician regarding the war in Iraq. Quite frankly, I am tired of it. They know how I feel. Instead I see a far greater purpose in writing the men and women in our armed services and yes leaving the politics out of it. They have enough on their plate as more are being sent over by this government.
On this page there are contact numbers in which you can adopt your own soldier. They state what you can send your soldier on a monthly basis so they feel they are not forgotten.
Many of us feel powerless when it comes to our concern for our soldiers, yet here is a program in which you can feel powerful. As our troops are deployed for longer tours of duty in which we feel our government is not doing right by them, this is where you can do right by them. Just think of this scenario in which one politician or another says, “Support our soldiers” and to that you can rightfully say, “My package went out yesterday.”
Author’s note: Should you wish to email me, my email address is, firstname.lastname@example.org