SWANSBORO, N.C. --
In January, dozens of everyday men and women came together in a show of kindness and charity when they aided in the rebuilding of a medically-retired Marine’s house.
Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Traumatic Brain Injury, the state of the house and the financial burden of attempting to repair it weighed heavily on his mind, triggering his injury-induced bouts of depression and anger. He, his wife and two daughters did not know where to turn for help.
That is, until Military Missions In Action stepped in. MMIA was a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to helping injured veterans with any household project they may be in need of. From something as simple as building a wheelchair ramp to completely overhauling one’s residence, MMIA supplies funding for building materials while volunteers from the veteran’s area assist in taking the burden off their shoulders.
Nine months later, MMIA is at it again when, from Oct. 8 to 14, they aided in making the life of Eric LeClair, another medically-retired Marine, a little bit easier.
“The wooden siding of the house was rotting and becoming infested with termites and carpenter ants. The landscaping was a mess and tree branches banged on the roof whenever there was a storm,” said Mike Dorman, executive director of MMIA. “When you physically cannot do what you used to do, home maintenance takes up all of your time. The stress it can put on a family hinders the veteran’s healing process.”
Tucked away on a back road in Swansboro, LeClair and his wife, Cheryl, have been doing what they can to get by.
After Eric’s return from supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was medically discharged with PTSD, a TBI and extensive spinal injuries. Due to his physical and mental state, as well as the side effects of his various medications, Cheryl was required to stay home more often to help him, forcing her to quit her full-time job.
“We bought the house before he deployed during the first push into Iraq,” said Cheryl LeClair. “From the time he returned injured, he’s undergone 78 surgeries, restricting him from what he could do. After we found out the sides of the house were rotting and becoming infested, we didn’t know what to do.”
Fortunately, a friend of Cheryl’s knew about MMIA and contacted them for help. Shortly after, dozens of volunteers came to the aid of the LeClairs, repairing anything that needed to be done and more.
“In addition to fixing the shortcomings of the house, we have also installed an emergency egress door in their bedroom wall which leads out to a patio,” said Dorman. “The patio will also act as sort of a zen garden, which will hopefully further help Eric with his healing.”
MMIA was established more than three years ago with the sole purpose of helping injured veterans, regardless of age.
For instance, one of the MMIA’s recent projects was to refurbish the bathroom of a Korean War veteran, making it easier for him to utilize it. Since the start of this year, MMIA has conducted 13 projects.
For this event, MMIA partnered with Home Depot, which donated $7,000 worth of materials and four employees a day, and Wellness for Warriors, an organization that helps veterans get access to the best available health and wellness programs, also contributed eight volunteer workers for the project.
“Some families don’t have the means to do what has to be done, and that’s where we as a community should step up and help,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. John Cordeiro, academics chief of the Logistics Operations School aboard Camp Johnson, who volunteered to help with the project. “Not only do we get to give back to those who returned injured, but it gives you a great feeling to know you’re impacting their lives in a positive way.”
After a week of rebuilding and refurbishing, the LeClair house looked as if it had been newly built from the ground up. The yard was cleared of brush, the tree branches were cut back and white vinyl siding was now in place where soft, weathered wood used to rest. A big burden was lifted from the LeClairs, making Eric’s healing process progress smoother.
“Everything eventually piled up for us, getting put on the backburner and putting more strain on (Eric),” said Cheryl LeClair. “When (MMIA) came, they took care of everything plus a lot more. It’s a huge relief for us and I hope they continue to do more work for other families in the area.”
No matter how busy one’s life may be or one’s certain political views, everyone has the opportunity to give a few hours of their time to selflessly volunteer to help someone else. For some who attended the LeClair project, even 1,800 miles didn’t stop them.
“My daughter, who lives here, told me about the project, so I flew from New Mexico to help,” said Philip Gezon, a retired Vietnam War veteran. “I’m retired now, so I have the ability to travel around and help people who need it. It’s something I strongly feel I should be doing, and now that I’m not working anymore, there’s no excuse not to.”