On Thursday March 29th, my son in law (he had the heavy duty truck I knew we would need that day) and I went to Derry, NH where a home was going to be built for SGT Tom Block thanks to Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors out of Phoenix. (www.homesforwoundedwarriors.com) (Jared currently lives in Nashville but the organization is still HQ’d in the Phoenix area.)
Jared Allen is a retired NFL player who spent 14+ years in the League and was a highly respected defensive end for the MN Vikings and other teams. Along the way he went on a USO tour and was astonished to find how many of our seriously wounded warriors were returning home to less than ideal living conditions. In most cases they needed their homes adapted for their new lives and that was just not happening on a grand enough scale. There are a few very good organizations that build houses for wounded veterans but the list is very long so all are not accommodated and thus continue to live a life that is very co-dependent.
As luck would have it, Jared became friends with Alex Karalexis from Boston (Alex bought a UMASS OHT hat so found out about OHT) who had been a carpenter and was then in Las Vegas with the United Fight Club. He spent 7 years in Vegas fighting with the UFC. Jared and Alex developed a plan to build houses for the most needy warriors and started to communicate with Fisher House and the Gary Sinise Foundation to get names of those still waiting for a home. I talked at length to Alex about how they run their organization and am impressed with the way they do things – the right way and without overexposing the veteran. They don’t start a build until they have all the money they need. I was also impressed with how they protected the veteran with ironclad policies.
As Alex says, “The rest is history.” Last year Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors built 9 homes and they are in the process of building 8 more. One is right here in NH and another in MA.
After Alex bought his UMASS/OHT hat, I was approached by Jared’s Communications/Events person about doing a cash hat sponsorship for their gala and golf tournament in May in Scottsdale. Instead I offered to provide the hats for the event which my new friend Amanda loved. OHT will provide 200 Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors/OHT hats for all participants and volunteers.
SGT Tom Block is the NH home recipient and my son in law and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the building site. You will get a kick out of this; there I was with my snow boots in hip high snow on a road that was impassable and it took trucks like my son in law’s to even get to the site. It was quite the experience. LOL. Trees had been taken down but the rest of the 27 acre site was still undeveloped. As you can imagine they had gotten behind with this build thanks to this winter’s weather.
Tom Block is a MN native and was a Ranger with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regimen. His wife is from MA and they decided they wanted to be in NH. On his 4th deployment in Oct of 2013, Tom lost his right eye and most of his vision in his left (but he drove his truck to the building site. A little scary to think about that but he did fine) along with severe leg injuries and shrapnel wounds across his body as a result of an IED explosion. He endured grueling rehab and a very long recovery but stayed positive and never gave up. He defied all doctors’ expectations. Thanks to his determination and fortitude the Army Times named Tom the Soldier of the Year in 2014.
Today, Tom works for Homeland Security and hunts down cyber child predators. They tell me veterans are found to do this job extremely well because they can detach from the situation and don’t get involved or emotional thanks to their military training. Must be a very rewarding but disturbing job.
We found Tom to be a very thankful and appreciative young man. He still can’t believe his good fortune and for his wife, new baby and Caesar, his very well trained dog, they think they’ve hit the jackpot. They truly have. When I gave Tom an OHT hat, he took off the one he was wearing and put ours on right away. He LOVED it and said it was the best fitting hat he’s ever had.
I’ll let you know when the home is complete – when there will be a home dedication and when Tom gets the keys. Some of you who are local may want to attend with me.
That will be a very rewarding but emotional day for all. Thank you for all you did to defend our freedom, Tom.
You, too, can support Operation Hat Trick at www.operationhattrick.org.
Operation Hat Trick
The Founder’s Blog is a regular feature on the Operation Hat trick website. This blog will give you information and recount stories of our journey to help those in need. To read our most recent blog and find archived blog posts, please visit our “Founder’s Blog” page.