Former Fort Campbell Staff Sgt. Heath Calhoun has learned to adapt since his accident in November 2003.
While serving in Iraq with 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Heath lost both his legs above the knee in an explosion when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his convoy.
Life may be adjusting to the Calhouns for a change, as one group leads the charge to build them a new future with an adaptive home to help accommodate Heath's needs.
"When [Homes for Our Troops] offered it was overwhelming to think that people out there would take care of you like this," Heath said. "Just a fantastic feeling."
Homes for Our Troops - a nonprofit organization that seeks donations and materials with the goal of providing homes for injured or disabled Soldiers - is currently adding to their list of sponsors that have signed up to help provide supplies for the Calhoun home.
Heath's wife, Tiffany, said it has all been very surreal and shocking to learn their dream was becoming a reality.
"Knowing we'd have an adaptive home is a dream come true because we knew we'd have to have that," Tiffany said. "And to not have that financial strain was a relief. It was very encouraging to know there were people ready to help."
Challenges have come for the Calhouns over the last seven years, but it's nothing they haven't learned to face and conquer, they said.
Tiffany said that one of the challenges has been living in a house where it was difficult for Heath to get around.
Currently the Family is renting a house in Clarksville, and his kids' bedrooms have always been upstairs, keeping the father of three from tucking his children in at night.
"[Heath] has ripped two stair rails off the wall," Tiffany said. "So he doesn't go upstairs much."
For the first year after the accident, while the Family was living in Virginia, Heath was still in a wheelchair and the doors were not wide enough for him to pass through.
"I spent two and a half years in a wheelchair and struggled with learning prosthetics," Heath said.
Finally able to walk and give up the wheelchair completely, Heath said he's been able to meet most of his adversity head on.
Relearning to drive and run with his prosthetics, Heath says he's accepted that he's disabled, but that he has been able to overcome.
"Accepting one has helped me accept the other," he said.
More than conquerors
If adversity is a test for the strong, then the Calhouns are proving they can pass the test and re-write the book on overcoming difficulty.
Heath has done more than re-adjust to life or learning to use prosthetic legs, he's also become an athletic competitor, achieving two top-five and two top-10 placements.
Returning from Germany last week, Heath said he has been training as a skiing competitor for the last three or four years.
He uses a mono-ski or "sitski," which has allowed him to compete in Italy for the World Cup Competition. Heath is also a certified mono-ski instructor.
Heath said he will find out next month if he qualifies for the Paralympic ski team in the 2010 winter games.
Heath said there's been some similarities between his time in the military and learning to compete as a disabled veteran and that has helped him be successful.
"In the military I had officers to tell me what to do," Heath said. "In my skiing that has helped me to excel. I just try to do what the instructors tell me."
Heath said skiing's kept him busy, but every now and then he just likes to sit down and be a husband.
Tiffany works a full-time job at a nonprofit for wounded Soldiers, and she realizes that adapting to this life has been all their kids have known for the most part.
Now that he's no longer in the Army, Heath's new training is like "mini deployments, only now no one is shooting at him," Tiffany said. "But going down the hill at 60 mph is still dangerous."
Mason, 7, the oldest child, was born the same year of Heath's accident and lived at Walter Reed for six months after the accident.
"My son was really affected the most," Tiffany said. "He's been pulled along, but he's adapted."
For their two girls, Brystal, 5 and Bailee, 4, it's been all they've known.
Heath was honored by the Wounded Warrior Project in 2007 with the George C. Lang Award for Courage, in addition to receiving the Daughters of the American Revolution Medal of Honor.
Now an advocate of others like him, Heath helped pass the Wounded Warrior Bill in 2005 that assists wounded Soldiers and Families during the rehabilitation, according to Calhoun's Web site, www.heathcalhoun.com.
Building a new future
Contributors are still needed before ground can be broken on the 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-bathroom, single-level home, set to be built on Walter Road in Clarksville.
Homes for Our Troops spokeswoman Vicki Thomas said several area businesses have already signed on to be involved and the group's Web site reveals that more are signing on every week.
"We are trying to coordinate…people willing to donate time and materials to pour a foundation that will then enable us to schedule a three-day build brigade," she said.
This team will bring the community together to go from foundation to a completely enclosed structure making it weather tight, according to Thomas.
An internal group of veterans, among others, review and select applicants in the process, with more than 50 homes built since the group started in 2004.
The exterior and interior walls will go up, as well as trusses on the roof, shingles, windows, doors and siding.
How quickly the Calhouns could be living in their new adaptive home is dependent upon the community's support in the process, Thomas said.
But as project contributors grow, the Calhouns have had some input on their future home that will meet VA standards. Heath said he will be able to roll his wheelchair anywhere in the house, once it is finished.
"They gave us plans to look at," Tiffany said. "We were able to pick from options on the siding color and brick color to see what we wanted."
In the front, the frame of the home will be lowered into concrete, eliminating the need for stairs anywhere in the house.
There was also the option of having a roll-in shower, but since Heath no longer uses a wheelchair, they agreed on the option of installing a built-in seat.
"They allow little tweaks, specific to our needs," Tiffany said.
Despite his achievements, Heath says he will be most excited to have his kids on the same level of the house as he is.
"That's the most important thing," he said.
To volunteer resources to the Calhoun home project or for more information about Homes for Our Troops visit www.homesforourtroops.org/calhoun.