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"Life is Not Over When Injured" - One "Heroes at Home" Veteran Shares

He refused their help not once … twice … but three times… before saying yes. Why? “Others needed it more”. … It was a simple announcement on his part but I heard the caring attitude underneath of a medic, taking care of others first had always been part of him, but now he needed some help.

Sgt Johnny Agpi was the 1,000th veteran who received help from the Sears Heroes at Home and Rebuilding Together program. After talking to his fellow Army veteran, Tom Aiello about the efforts to rebuild Johnny’s home yesterday I wrote about those helping our veterans, "Heroes at Home Helping Veterans One at a Time".  I asked if Johnny would share his story with me and he said yes. A reluctant recipient of their largess, Johnny opened up to me about his experiences. Proud to have been trained in the medical career field in clinic, hospital and field conditions, he served several times in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Celebrate Veterans Day!
His combat story was confusing, jumbled as most are, medical evacuation of two injured soldiers – multiple attempts, personnel from the Army, Air Force, Aussies, Canadians, special forces, Afghans, Chinooks, explosion on the landing zone, unconscious, over night on a ledge after being blown there – it truly had the haze of war but sadly he finished the day permanently injured with lower back and head trauma.

Flash forward to a medical board, honorable discharge, retirement from active duty, changes to lifestyle and then a call he thought originally to be a scam… opening the door to strangers that wanted to help and help they did. They came for four months and continue today to make improvements to his home. Heroes at Home made his home more livable, safer and convenient. He said “they insisted on doing so much more”… for him than necessary and that it seemed strange to having others do things for him.

He commented that, “he had saved lots of lives” and finally decided to say yes to the help after he realized “it’s ok to say yes to help” because the cause “is bigger than me”. Veterans needed to know that Americans cared about them and that “life is not over when injured”. He said that veterans served and “did it with honor” and sometimes Americans are ungrateful which is not easy to understand. Disrespected, chastised for serving, he felt the need to speak out about how “it hurts” when confronted in this manner.


Reluctant to talk more about himself, I did learn that while he is not completely restricted to a wheel chair he needs it for travel, breaks from standing, comfortable sitting and that he uses a cane as well to move around. He wants to be as “strong as possible” for family and friends which is easily understood and a trait expected of most veterans.  His motivation, fears of being misunderstood, his physical limitations and concerns that he might be labeled due to his injuries are similar to other veterans’ emotions as well. Accepting the help of others is one step to prevent suicide and maintain a healthy emotional balance.

At the end we jumped to his passion for others and what his plans for the future included. Not surprisingly, he finds time to help others by packing and passing out food to homeless folks at a convent and a shelter in NE DC on Sunday and Tuesday. Wow! His aspirations include returning to the medical field or finding additional service in the intelligence arena with a federal agency. As he told at me a second time, “life is not over when injured” and he wants other veterans to know that.

Appreciative, yes! Successful, now and will be! Patriot, certainly! Caring, absolutely! Thank you for your service and attitude Johnny, they are truly uplifting! You are a hero for others to emulate and if we were in DC on Veterans Day I would certainly give you a hug and a big thank you!

• Do you know a veteran that needs some help? Contact Rebuilding Together http://rebuildingtogether.org/section/initiatives/veteran_housing/programs/heroes/makea_referral 

• Call the Rebuilding Together National Office at 1-800-473-4229 to see if there is a local Rebuilding Together affiliate serving in the area

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