tv Operation Finally Home Heroes CNN December 8, 2013 5:00pm-6:01pm PST
this basic mandate. america is not. and the greatest tragedy is that we know how to do it. tune in to our regular show every sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. eastern. good night, and thanks for watching this gps special. what's your name? >> even though we are pulling out in the middle east, there's over 50,000 wounded veterans that we have now, and that's an unbelievable amount. i build custom homes for 30 years. back in 2005, i did my first remodel for a wounded veteran. god put a passion in my heart to help these families. you know these young men and women need a lot of help. unfortunately, i don't have the help in a lot of areas. but i do know how to build a
home. >> i joined the marine corps in 2007. in february of 2009, we deployed to iraq. then we finally made it into afghanistan. my job is to find ieds, to keep other marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and even the local populous safe. that was my job. i loved it. i enjoyed every minute of it. we had another mission come down, and the night before we left, i had ended up getting on the phone and called my dad. there was just something about this mission that just didn't sit right with me. i just felt like something was going to go wrong. we had set up the night before
on the other side of the hill, you look down, there's about a mile-long stretch of this little village where no one lived. we were going to go through to clear it so the local populous could come back and live there. the next morning, we push out, and my buddy john had found an ied in a doorway. so he was going to shoot his 203 into the doorway, which is the .40 millimeter grenade which is under our rifles. we waited for the dust to clear and we came out from behind this wall, and i took about ten steps. and then i woke up on the ground. my staff sergeant with a concussion, popped eardrums, he was the first person to pull me over and put his knees on me. they said i had about ten seconds to freak out and then i did everything they said. my injuries originally -- i was missing my hand. i was a below-knee amputee here, so i still had my knee.
i had my full femur, but my femur was broke. from the time of the blast until the time i was loaded up on the hospital was 34 minutes, but to me, it seemed like it went by like that. it's been almost two and a half years. the guys who have been injured, we call it our alive day. april 7th of 2011 is my alive day. >> the garage is wide enough to where he can get in and out of his vehicle. i'm dan wallrath. operation finally home is where we help our wounded heroes. back in 2005, i got a telephone call from a friend of mine and he had a friend of his that his son was a marine. and his son was injured by a
roadside bomb. had severe head injuries. he wanted the know if i'd go over and talk to the family about remodelling their home because they were going bring steven home. >> his family will be able to use it, so we want the countertops at regular heights. >> i built custom homes for 30 years. i really was ready to go there and tell them i didn't do that kind of work. >> well, we're moving the microwave around to this end so that will be accessible. >> that's great. >> so when i got there, the father told me a picture of steven before he got injured and then after he got injured. and it just broke my heart. his situation was just -- it was just terrible. i told them -- i said well, we'll take care of it. >> let's walk back into the master. >> the job ended up being about a $100,000 remodel, but we didn't spend a dime.
everybody donated materials, time, labor. >> the only door in this house that's not oversized accessible would be the guest bathroom. >> so after we did that project, i went back to the guys and i told them -- i said that was really something good. maybe we need to reach out and see if we can help more. so from there, it just kind of grew. >> i was shot twice. once in the chest, and once in the left hip. >> the ied hit me in the face and neck. i had severe shrapnel damage. >> i'm medically retired, primarily for post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury. >> i underwent 22 surgeries to save both of my legs.
an amputation on my left leg below the knee. >> he could do lunch with the guys and kind of talk to them and thank them for building his home. >> back in 2009, i was still full-time build er, and trying o grow operation finally home. and it just got to be too much. and i met this wonderful guy that was working for another non-profit. we just hit it off. >> well, i'm going to pass the ball to dan, so i have no problem doing that. dan's marching orders to me were i want to go national. i want to expand. we do a flier, i can send it to the local radio station. >> he needs a building system, i need the military and non-profit
systems. in 2010, dan would be selected as one of the top cnn heroes and the floodgate would open. >> ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to present cnn hero dan wallrath. >> i really believe in my heart cnn is probably the biggest thing that ever happened to us. >> the true heroes are service men and women who stand in harm's way every day to protect our freedoms. >> it's opened up a lot of doors. it's opened up a lot of opportunities. we went from four homes and one remodel in 2009 to over 80 homes in 17 states. the first thing we do is find a builder and an area we can build in. have a town hall meeting, get all the suppliers, contractors, everything donated to do that home. we do not take applications. the main reason is that the majority of these families have already been through enough heartache that we don't want to take 500 applications for one home and have to tell 499
families they're not getting it. so we'd rather go find them than they find us. >> i have my good days, i have my bad. at first there were a lot more bad than there were good. there was one time i woke up in the morning and i looked at my dad, i was like well this is kind of -- i won't say that word. but this is kind of crap. those days, you wake up and you're just like "i don't want to do anything, i don't want to go to therapy, i don't want to do none of this." the way i help myself through it
is there's always this fact that i can't change what happened. if i could wish everything back, i would. but i can't. so why let it get me down? >> it's all you, buddy. >> all right, man. that's what i'm talking about. >> my brother lives with me. whenever he found out i got hurt, he's been one of the bigger supporters in helping me through my rehabilitation. >> when kenny got hurt, it hurt really bad because i knew we couldn't do some of the things we used to do together. most of my job is devoted towards kenny. somebody needs to be at the house with him right now. whether it's to help him get into the bathtub, or if he needed to go somewhere and his chair lift broke, i'd pick him up, put him in his truck.
>> scrambled eggs. >> emotionally, it wasn't too bad. i mean, i had a very good support structure. that helped out a lot. having my family there. physically-wise, that's something that's going to be an everyday battle. i'm 24. i want to be able to live by myself and to be able to do everything i need to do by myself. >> this took me a little bit to perfect. this apartment that i live in isn't bad. but it's not set up for my needs. this is what you do when you can't reach things. the doors aren't as wide as they could be. the microwave, i can't really see everything. i can't stir something in the
microwave. the bathroom isn't as big as it should be so i can pull my wheelchair in there easily. some of the shelves are too high. always afraid i'm going to drop it. it bugs me at night when i go to sleep. it's like well, what's next, is the big question. to me, what's next is getting a house, going to school, finding a career. but it's when it's going to happen is the big thing. everything is kind of on hold right now until i get a place that is mine and set. and that's where i'm going to live and that's where i plan on staying. [ nurse ] i'm a hospice nurse. britta olsen is my patient. i spend long hours with her checking her heart rate, administering her medication, and just making her comfortable.
one night britta told me about a tradition in denmark, "when a person dies," she said, "someone must open the window so the soul can depart." i smiled and squeezed her hand. "not tonight, britta. not tonight." [ female announcer ] to nurses everywhere, thank you, from johnson & johnson. [ male announcer ] the rhythm of life. [ whistle blowing ] where do you hear that beat? campbell's healthy request soup lets you hear it in your heart.
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it's great having a dog that i went through so much with. as a pet, he just grew into the life of watching tv. i am going to meet with the executive director and president of operation finally home, organization i'm trying to have build a house for me. >> we're good to go. >> it's definitely a little nerve racking. >> good morning. >> how you doing, buddy? good to see you.
>> hi, ken. dan wallrath. >> nice to meet you. >> you know, what you've done is just amazing, you and fynn. we want you to know your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed and we appreciate you very much. >> thank you. i appreciate that. that does really mean a lot. >> everybody's situation is different. so we don't have a set of hard and fast rules. we have to find families that, in spite of their injuries, are willing to move forward and make something of themselves. i know you know why we're all sitting here talking. >> yes, sir. >> unfortunately, we're a small group, and we would love to be able to build a home for everybody. but with our resources, we just do what we can do. so if you received a new home, how would that help you? >> to me, it would be another part of my mental rehabilitation. i want to live by myself, to be
independent for myself. it would help to have a home that is set up where everything is more accessible to do that. >> what's your long-range plans? >> right now, i want to eventually go to school. >> right. >> i haven't really decided on a major yet. but i don't want to start school and then something happen and i have to move. >> i realize that you, like many, have a lot of emotional problems because of your injuries. how do you deal with all that right now? >> i deal with my injuries pretty well. yes, physically, i'm different. but i'm not going to let that change me as a person. >> that's good. that's good. >> we're interviewing a couple more families. we're going to do one final interview up in dallas. so i'm going to send you back. but you can call me and ask me any questions, you know that.
>> i'll see you later. >> thank you, ken. god bless you. >> glad to meet you. >> you, too. we'll talk soon. i can't imagine. been doing this for eight years, and it still don't get any easier. don't get any easier. >> the hardest part of transitioning to civilian life is i have this job that i love, i had everything all planned out. and now i'm waking up to learn that it's over. >> there's a lot of anxiety about, you know, leaving the military. that was pretty much the only thing i was really good at. >> the scariest thing about becoming a civilian was basically not knowing where we were going to go live. it's been difficult. it's been a difficult transition. >> hey! >> hey, stranger. how you doing? >> good. how are you?
>> good to see you again. >> good to see you, too. >> once we know that we have a builder and everything in place to start a new home, we contact the v.a. caseworkers. they have been dealing with these families for sometimes two and three years. and they really know the ones that are moving forward with their lives and not letting these challenges bring them down. >> i always like hearing about the new ones. >> yeah. we've got several coming up. >> we're going to have a build -- if y'all want to write it down, victoria, texas. nashville. we have another one coming up in nashville. in houston. >> oh, i have such a good candidate in houston. >> we're very interested in the family -- the steven jackal family. i know he finally retired, got hiss purple heart. >> he's out of the military now. i think he's still living in operation homefront, the apartments over there. we're going to push forward and actually do an interview with him and meet him and the kids
and the wife. dan's going to meet them tomorrow. >> he's a hero. >> oh, absolutely. >> true american hero. >> yes. >> i landed in the army age of 28. just felt at that point and time in my life, i wanted to do more. needed the challenge. february of 2009, i deployed to iraq for three and a half months. my last deployment was to afghanistan. it was a three-day mission, and the second day we were out, we rolled over a culvert and i had seen a wire running into the culvert. i told the driver to back up, and he couldn't hear me, and they initiated the ied on us. with the force of the vehicle
being lifted up off the ground, i lost consciousness. as i woke up, i tried to start moving my body and that's when i realized my legs were broke. i was pinned. two guys in front were knocked out. then pop shots from the ammo can started because a fire apparently had broke out from underneath the vehicle where the ied had came up through. here we are in the vehicle, i got two broken legs. i was just like, you know, i don't know what to do. is this it? is this how i'm going to die? i just felt the rush of heat and, you know, the next thing i did was grab my leg and i just started slamming on the fire. i would swing it like this and then slam it down so that i could hit the fire at different angles.
life. >> yeah, let me make her a bottle. >> some of these guys have made five, six, seven tours. you live that way five, six, seven years, you know, how do you expect to come back and just be normal again? >> i'm married to my beautiful wife adrianna, and we have six kids. this is, like, the most stressful part for me right now. you're always going, going, going. that adrenaline rush and be in combat. coming back, be in combat. coming back. and then now it's like you've done all these heroic things and you're sitting on the couch with your wife watching "desperate housewives." you know what i'm saying? >> let's try sunday. uh-huh. >> when you're depressed, you don't really think about the future, because you're kind of stuck either where you're at or in the past.
>> we were not prepared for this injury. it was hard. there's rough times that he goes through. it's really hard for me, because when i met stephen, or anybody that knows stephen, he's always smiling and he has a really beautiful personality, and just seeing him down sometimes, it really hurts. come on, zoe. >> we live at operation home front village. they allow us to live here through transition before we receive our benefits. which has been quite helpful. you feel like you're in the unknown part because you're waiting for your benefits to kick in. so you're in limbo. >> ever since the injury, everything's kind of been shaky up and down. kids, you know, changing schools and us moving from different
house to house. >> dealing with all this anxiety, dealing with all this other stuff. but my family is so supportive of me that i'm always hopeful about the future. >> the turning point was you see your loved ones, and then you realize well, i got something i have to really work hard to do and get better. i'm still the same person. i still can do the same things. it doesn't slow me down. i try not to make it slow me down. >> i've always been a person who thrived under -- you know, with challenges. >> everything gets better every day. you've got to fight for your family. >> i started taking adaptive scuba diving, which is a class -- you just go in and due to your disabilities, you learn
how to dive. hey, are you even wearing a -- >> a shorty. >> are you? i'll just wear my shorty, too. >> i'm wearing it for a different reason. i'm wearing it because my belly's bigger than my ass. >> getting in the waerter, it feels like time slows down. you can relax and just dive. dealing with pain up here on land versus no pain in the water, you know, where would you want to be? diving has definitely had a therapeutic effect for me. it heals you, mind, spirit, and body. you don't feel any stress. when you start to run out of air, you've got to come back up. it sucks.
because you just want to stay down there. >> this is how i get down the hill. >> that first couple months, people would stare and stuff. it took a while to be able to want to go out and do stuff. not so much anymore and i'm glad about that. that was the biggest thing when i first got hurt, because i wasn't able to drive. i was just really tired of having to have somebody chauffeur me around. they had to teach me how to drive again basically with hand controls. that was starting of my turning point. i think it was two days after i got my license, i went and got my truck. my step mom took me to pick up
my truck. i got in there, she took a left and i took a right and i just went for a drive. i like driving. i got lucky that i didn't lose my right hand because i'm right-handed. so i still can do a lot of things. the old driving hand on. it's just nice being able to get out. got to get the old oil changed in the truck, i'm a little overdue on it. hello. >> regular oil change, right? >> yeah. i have the worst signature in the world. >> all right, i'll get started on this.
>> all right, thank you. living the life. i get the house built, i'll end up probably living by myself and be able to cook my own food. >> we'll meet you inside. >> i might not mow the lawn. i might have somebody mow the lawn for me. hoping everything goes well with the review. but we'll find out soon, and i can't wait. a subaru... ...are the hands that do good things for the whole community: the environment, seniors, kids, and animals. that's why we created the share the love event. by the end of this year, the total donated by subaru could reach 35 million dollars.
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i retired from my building business to take over our family ranch. i guess i had two full-time jobs and i needed to spend at least 40 hours a week at the ranch and probably at least 40 hours a week in operation finally home. i make money here at the ranch. i don't make money at operation finally home. operation finally home to me is just a labor of love. i truly believe that family is number one. i've got such a wonderful wife, and she believes in what we're doing. >> everybody get a roll? >> she knows how important it is, and she's a big supporter in this journey. we were high school sweethearts. she was a junior and i was a senior. >> we were just babies. been married for 43 years.
in 2005, we were sort of leaning towards the idea of okay, retirement is coming up. we're not getting any younger. that's when operation finally home sort of kicked in. so retirement, not so much anymore. >> life wouldn't be what it is without my beautiful wife. she definitely makes it all worth living. >> hey. >> dan wallrath. >> stephen jackel, how you doing? >> nice to meet you. >> what's up, stranger? >> who you got there? >> jordan. >> all right. >> y'all want to sit down? >> yeah, come over here and sit down. first of all, thank you for your service. adriana, thank you for -- you know, i know that you're
sacrificing a lot for him to go off and do what he does. with that said, what would it mean to you if y'all were awarded a new home? >> for me, especially the kids, it's like you get moved from here to there, here to there, here to there. it would be nice to take a breath. >> i think we would be at peace, because right now everything is up in the air. i don't know, i think it would be a big weight off our shoulders. >> well, we found out when a veteran comes home, it's a ripple effect. we have family members developing secondary post traumatic stress disorder. the wife ends up having to be the care giver, mother, and father. >> we've got the builder in place. we've got our property. but unfortunately, we have, you know, different things we have to go through. >> what we're going to do is invite y'all up to dallas for the details.
that will be the next interview, with our builder up there. >> awesome. >> you have a good day. >> thank y'all so much for coming out. one of the things i look at is how he looks at her and how she looks at him and how they connect. and you could see there's a lot of love. you can see that. >> unfortunately, the easiest part of it is finding families. the hardest one is deciding which one to build for. >> we give the homes away in a way that's a little different than other organizations, which is we always surprise the family.
ken was surprised. we told him he was coming to dallas for a final interview. >> everybody, they're going to be heading this way shortly. >> this is alan, our builder. >> hey. how are you? nice to meet you. >> we have to kind of lie to the guys. >> instead of making you wait here, what i'd like to do is take your mom -- let me take your mom and dad in my truck. i'm going to put alan with you and call you and show you around the development. >> he wanted to know if he could bring his mom and dad with him. of course we said yes. >> take a right right here. >> is your mom and dad from this area? >> no, my dad is originally from connecticut. he lives up by gainesville.
>> your son is wonderful. we interviewed him a couple times. he's been great to deal with. got great attitude. we're taking out to his lot. probably about 200 people there. we're going to tell him we're building his home. >> oh, wow. >> i just want to tell you thank you for creating such a great son and his service. >> we don't just build a home. we get the community involved. everybody in the neighborhood involved. >> what we do is try to bring all of us together to make this happen. if one group tries to do it, it's just so hard. >> basically, everybody grabs their tools, goes out and does what it takes to bring these families home. >> this is a baseball facility. there's a lot of select baseball. soccer facilities.
>> we're very honored to be building for kenny and bringing him close back home to y'all. alan is actually going to build fynn a special doghouse also. >> with a tv? because he loves to watch tv. >> we might. i think we'll have to put some air-conditioning back there for him, too. >> our average market value of a home now i think is $254,000 is what we've done. and our average cost has been around $75,000 a home. >> this is a southstar community, has donated an acre lot. so he's going to have an acre of land. it's going to be a three-bedroom house. going to have a roll-in shower. he'll have the counters where he can roll underneath him. everything will be accessible to him. >> that's awesome. >> go left or right? >> you're going to go right.
>> all right. >> uh-oh. we've got a lot of people out here. >> yeah, we do. >> this is awesome. over the next 40 years the united states population is going to grow by over 90 million people, and almost all that growth is going to be in cities. what's the healthiest and best way for them to grow so that they really become cauldrons of prosperity
and cities of opportunity? what we have found is that if that family is moved into safe, clean affordable housing, places that have access to great school systems, access to jobs and multiple transportation modes then the neighborhood begins to thrive and then really really take off. the oxygen of community redevelopment is financing. and all this rebuilding that happened could not have happened without organizations like citi. citi has formed a partnership with our company so that we can take all the lessons from the revitalization of urban america to other cities. so we are now working in chicago and in washington, dc and newark. it's amazing how important safe, affordable housing is to the future of our society. with an ultra-thin coating and fast absorbing advil ion core™ technology, it stops pain before it gets worse. nothing works faster.
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by this tent. [ cheers and applause ] >> this is awesome. >> let me get his chair. >> congratulations to you. >> thank you. >> it's going to be an honor building your house. >> hey there. you're finally home, brother. finally home. >> thank you. >> you okay? >> one of the things that i see every time that i'm able to do this, i see that look in their face. they realize they're going to be okay. the families are going to be okay. you deserve it, brother, you deserve it.
hey, folks, this is kenny kalish. [ applause ] i just want to take a few moments to thank everybody here, to make this dream come true for kenny. god bless you, kenny. we love you, man. [ applause ] >> you know, i came here today expecting to do just an interview, a final interview for this house. i pull over the hill and see everybody here and it took my breath away. i don't really know exactly what to say. from the bottom of my heart, thank you. >> no, thank you. >> thank you, kenny. [ applause ] >> i actually really don't know what to say. it's got me at a loss for words, really. i come over that hill, i was going to have a heart attack.
you want my autograph? i can do that. the highlight for me today, the kids swarmed all over ken and actually wanted to talk to ken and find out his story and treated him like a hero. they were asking for his ah autograph. >> you know, i really enjoyed myself. i was planning on staying in, but when i got hurt, i decided to get out. >> bring the community together to bring ken home, it's just awesome. you look at kenny, and we could never repay him for the sacrifice he's made, but, you know, that doesn't keep us from trying. >> when we found out we were getting this home from operation finally home, it was just
disbelief. >> there aren't words that can describe the emotion. it still gets to me. >> i was just shocked. that weight had been lifted off my shoulder immediately. >> you know, in the case of the jackel family, we had told them they were coming for an interview. we told them that -- oh, by the way, we have some tickets to a concert. >> one idea that i had was that in my show, i do a song called "moonshine road." after that, tell my band we'll break. i'll just say we have a real american hero with us, ladies and gentlemen. i'd like to take a chance right now to bring him out and let you say thanks to him.
>> kix, he's an amazing guy. he get what is we do. he understands. he believes in us. >> i'm really glad to be a part of it. thanks for letting me. all right, guys. >> when we got there, we said a friend of ours, looks like he's going to be able to go backstage. would they like to go backstage? of course, they said yeah. still had no clue what was going on. >> hey, i've got to stop for a second. i've got to tell y'all something. there's something really special going on here tonight. you know, i'm a big fan of our men and women across the seas that are sacrificing themselves. i heard we had a true hero in the house tonight. sergeant jackel and his family are here. i thought you guys might like to say thanks to them.
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>> thank you, kix. i'm dan wallrath. i'm with operation finally home. i'm the president and founder. we build mortgage-free custom homes for our wounded heroes. now, tonight, as kix said, we've got a special guest here. we have sergeant stephen jackel. it would take me half a day to list all the medals that this young man has received. his team run over -- the vehicle he was in, they ran over an ied. stephen lost both his legs in that attack. the vehicle was on fire. and he saved his whole group. this is a real american hero right here. [ applause ] ladies out there, let me tell you, this is a strong woman.
[ cheers and applause ] six kids at home, a husband overseas, loses two legs, and she keeps that family together. [ cheers and applause ] we are partnering with our buddy here, kix brooks, and a local dallas builder, tim jackson. and stephen, adriana, tim is going to build you a brand-new custom home. [ cheers and applause ]
let me introduce a true american hero, sergeant stephen jackel. >> thank y'all very much for your support. >> at operation finally home, we're not just building homes, we're rebuilding lives. >> if operation finally home did not do this for us, we wouldn't have the ability to go for our dreams in life. >> with this home here, now it's like i'm actually striving ahead. i just started my own company. >> now we'll do it really slowly. >> because of the home, we were
able to finish our education, be finally stable, create a more stable environment for our children. >> we are home for the rest of our lives. and it's a great feeling. it's good. >> you know, with operation finally home, our goal is to pride a new home for every wounded veteran and his family. i know it's unrealistic. you know, we know we can't save them all, but we're going to save as many as we can. >> look at that.