Calhoun project offers chance at reconnection
Heath Calhoun still had not picked up a hammer Saturday. Instead, he told young Boy Scouts about his two prosthetic legs and watched a few dozen construction workers work furiously on his new specially adapted home.
"I picked up a sandwich," Calhoun joked Saturday afternoon, just moments after the work crews were called off the Homes for Our Troops build site because of increasingly poor weather.
Saturday was the second day of the HFOT build brigade for Calhoun and his family. The veteran organization is building the Calhouns a home that is barrier free to allow Calhoun a more active lifestyle and easier interaction with his children with amenities like a roll-in shower, no stairs and extended countertops.
Friday began the three-day blitz to get the home weather-tight. The goal was to have the house completely sided and roofed, but lightning strikes prevented the roofing work and increasing downpours forced Jimmy Miller, the project's general contractor, to pull crews off the site completely for the day.
Calhoun and his wife were still watching in awe as their home eked closer to completion.
"We have windows and there's color on the house," Tiffany Calhoun said.
Heath Calhoun was focused on the men and women slopping through mud and rain, pounding nails and cutting siding.
"I'm just sitting here watching the dedication those guys have to the house," he said.
Saturday was also a chance for Calhoun to reconnect with some long-lost friends. Patrick Heiter and Dwayne Jackson came to help with the project. Both were deployed with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment in 2003 when Calhoun was injured.
Heiter was in Calhoun's team and called for a medevac helicopter when Calhoun was wounded after a rocket-propelled grenade hit the nearby Humvee.
Heiter and Calhoun have seen each other only twice since Calhoun was injured. The two reconnected last August, and Heiter said he wanted to be a part of the effort.
"It's good to see him doing well," Heiter said.
Daniel Patten and Grant Carlton also made their first visit to the site Saturday, and their first introduction to the project they're biking across the country for.
Patten, from Nashville, and Carlton, from Memphis, had wanted to do something for charity for a long time. They had generally decided to focus on a smaller veterans group organization and Calhoun's name came to the top of the list when they learned he was from Tennessee and saw videos online of his story.
They also wanted to be able to see their efforts tangibly make a difference, and "not go to some CEO's six-figure salary."
"That's exactly why we picked it," Carlton said.
The two began their nationwide trek on April 10 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Their trip will take about two months and will consume about 3,800 miles before they complete their journey in San Francisco.
All of the donations the duo generate will go directly to the Calhouns project. Some donors have already pledged by the mile and some in one-time amounts. They are accepting donations through their website at www.2fromtennesseecc.com.
Calhoun also spent time with boy scouts from Troop 599 and 540, who were eager to ask questions about Calhoun's prosthetic legs.
The mostly first-grade boys were at the build site for a twofold reason: to earn a disability awareness belt loop and also assist in community service.
"It's a new experience for some of them who may have never been up close to someone with prosthetics," said troop leader Ferris Watson, who himself has had both hips replaced.