On Saturday, July 30, I had the privilege of attending a signing ceremony between HARDI and Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) at the Southampton Country Club, Richboro, Pennsylvania.
HARDI CEO Talbot Gee announced a commitment, probably for about $1 million, to help arrange heating and cooling systems for the homes that HFOT builds throughout the United States for the next three years.
HFOT focuses on building specially designed homes for severely wounded veterans of recent wars. The signing event coincided with the announcement of a new home for Philadelphia native Cpl. Kevin McCloskey and his wife, Bridget.
McCloskey had both legs amputated after his truck rolled over an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. (He also suffered vision loss in his right eye, extensive burns across his body and a traumatic brain injury.)
Various contributors, from a local builder to a paint company, offered their reasons for support, but the most powerful moments were listening to the former soldiers, who shared their war experiences. One was Army Sgt. Pisey Tan, who lost both legs and was a home recipient through HFOT in 2006. He explained how his brother had to carry him up and down the stairs until he could move into a house designed for his disability.
The other speaker was former Army Sgt. Daniel Sestina, who told of how his truck was following McCloskey’s vehicle when the bomb exploded. He and a fellow soldier rushed to aid McCloskey, fully aware that the enemy often hides a delayed explosive charge, knowing that American troops never abandon their wounded. They managed to pull him from the burning vehicle and get him immediate first aid before he was transported to a military hospital.
HARDI’s Talbot Gee felt the emotion of the moment, when he gave a brief overview of HARDI’s future plans and commitment to HFOT, including donating complete HVAC systems to more than 100 homes.
Accompanying him at the event were Leadership Chair of the Impact Committee Dave Chatmon, The Letter Machine and Vice Chair Mike Braun, marketing director, Gustave A. Larson Co.
Chatmon explained that after a careful review of several nonprofits which were candidates for HARDI’s desire to assist in a humanitarian cause, they chose HFOT because of its direct influence on those who benefited from the homes. Chatmon also said HARDI wanted to choose one organization for its focus, thus making a deeper impact, rather than they trying to aid a variety of organizations.
McCloskey spoke without any prepared statement. His comments about the war, his injury and his words of gratitude were simple, touching and honest. After he was done speaking and received a standing ovation from the audience of more than 50 people, most of us learned what it was like to meet a real hero, face to face.