Opportunity to help remodel/adapt a Wounded Warrior’s home in Holbrook, NY 11741

I attached the Newsday article that reported on 25 year old US Army Cpl. Christopher Levi return to his Holbrook, NY home after sustaining severe, permanent, life changing injuries in Iraq.  The Holbrook Fire Department, family/friends have an address for people to send cards, assistance/or offer services to help adapt US Army Cpl. Christopher Levi’s parent’s home to facilitate his comfort, range of movement, increasing independence….

Here is the address:  Donate: Christopher Levi, c/o Holbrook Fire Department, 390 Terry Blvd., Holbrook, NY 11741

Here is the link/article:  http://www.newsday.com/news/local/suffolk/ny-ensold0718,0,5717812.story?page=1

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/ny-lisold0903,0,573543.story

Pennysaver had an article too and the Gathering of Eagles have rallied around–BZ!:)  Remember Christopher in your prayers today and tomorrow and for all the years ahead…

Cablevision News 12 Long Island:  http://www.news12.com/LI/topstories/article?id=215994

(BZ to my mom-who always leads with her heart:)

Newsday.com

Fundraiser will aid Holbrook soldier injured in Iraq

BY MARTIN C. EVANS

martin.evans@newsday.com

July 18, 2008

U.S. Army Cpl. Christopher Levi leaned forward from his wheelchair, gripped the handles of a geriatric walker and, with all his upper body strength, hoisted himself to his feet.

In a rehab center at the Military Advanced Treatment Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Levi, 25, balanced himself unsteadily on two titanium legs. Then, slowly, he took a few tentative steps toward regaining his ability to walk.

His slow pace — it took him 10 minutes to walk a halting 220 feet — is part of a much larger journey Levi will take over the coming months that he hopes will help him reclaim his life.

The journey to Walter Reed began just before 1 p.m. on March 17, in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.

Levi’s unit, a U.S. Army intelligence group, had picked up an Iraqi suspect for questioning several days earlier. That afternoon, Levi was with a group of soldiers who were to return the man to his home. Levi, whose family back in Holbrook worried endlessly about his safety, was in the middle vehicle — an armored Humvee — in a five-vehicle convoy.

At the wheel was his friend and squad leader, Sgt. Norman Forbes IV, of Grapevine, Texas.

They set off shortly after noon, riding through city streets that were frequent sites for attack.

“We had to pass through a choke point,” Forbes recalled. “The first two trucks went though, and I hit the gas. Anytime you approach a choke point, you kind of say ‘don’t blow up, don’t blow up.’ But this time, it blew up.”

Since arriving at Walter Reed last March, Levi has set his mind to one task: getting back on his feet. He is among an estimated 802 soldiers who, as of early July, have lost limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While he undergoes months of rehab, his family in Holbrook will soon begin remodeling their home so that Levi can live comfortably in it. Tomorrow, the family will hold a fundraiser in Franklin Square, their first step in raising enough money to begin the work.

Even as his family meets with contractors, Levi has worked hard to get used to his two new legs. On the recent afternoon when he walked 220 feet down a hallway, he moved with slow, deliberate, heel-to-toe strides — occasionally reminding himself to watch his posture so that his hips and abdominals would do the work, not his arms.

Though Levi has the strong physique of an Army Ranger, he was soon so exhausted he needed a towel to wipe off the sweat.

“It’s hard to get used to it at first, but once you get the rhythm down and focus on the muscle groups you need, it becomes easier,” he said, as more than a dozen other amputees grunted, panted, stretched or strode during rehab exercises of their own.

That afternoon in Sadr City, a bomb known as a shaped charge device hidden in the street sent a jet of molten metal hurtling through the armor of the soldiers’ Humvee. The force shattered Forbes’ left arm and his left hand, and broke his left femur, destroying the muscle of his thigh. Forbes is today a patient at a medical center in Texas.

Levi was riding to the right of Forbes. The blast cut through both of his legs at mid-thigh, hurling his limbs to the other side of the Humvee. The blast tore away part of his right palm, taking most of the fifth metacarpal bone with it.

“Forbes,” Levi shouted, “I don’t have any legs!”

At that moment, luck and modern military field medicine adapted to the insurgent war in Iraq came to Levi’s aid. The machine gunner, Aaron Copeland, whose 50-caliber weapon had been bent in two by the blast, pressed his knee into Levi’s crotch, squeezing shut two major arteries that feed blood to Levi’s legs and preventing him from quickly bleeding to death. Copeland almost certainly saved Levi’s life.

With minutes, Levi was evacuated to a military base that, fortunately, was close by. Within hours of the blast, and now stabilized, Levi was placed aboard a plane bound for emergency surgery at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. From there, Levi was shipped to Walter Reed.

There are more than 31,000 wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Funerals and memorials nationwide have focused attention on the 4,651 Americans who, as of yesterday, have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In contrast, the wounded have largely returned home in relative obscurity, often to face months of hospitalization, years of rehab and lifelong disability because of severed limbs, brain injuries, severe burns, blindness or other battle-related wounds.

For the next year or more, Levi is expected to remain at Walter Reed. He will learn how to balance on artificial limbs and learn to cope with the aftermath of an attack that so changed his life. Many wounded soldiers fight phantom pain in lost limbs as well as depression over their altered bodies. Often they battle sadness that they will not be allowed to return to active duty with their military buddies.

Levi is a confident and upbeat young man who moves about the Walter Reed campus in a motorized wheelchair. With gusto he throws himself into his daily physical therapy. After walking one and a half times around a 220-foot loop, Levi removed his artificial legs, climbed to the edge of a bed-like therapy platform and began doing legless sit-ups. The exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles, which must do much of the work his thigh muscles once did.

He recently developed an aggressive infection in his injured hand, which threatened the health of a bone graft there. Because of the injury, he is not expected to travel to Long Island for tomorrow’s fundraiser.

In addition, a blister developed where his right leg meets the plastic prosthetic socket. That threatened to throw off his balance, which could lead to falls.

“He works very hard,” said his physical therapist at Walter Reed, Bunnie Brower Wyckoff, a 1968 graduate of Hicksville High School. “He’s had a lot of setbacks, but he rallies every time.”

Levy’s parents, Eric and Debbie, are planning to expand and renovate the bottom floor of their Holbrook split level to accommodate their son. Hallways will be widened, light switches will be lowered and power outlets raised to make them accessible to a wheelchair user. A bathroom will be fitted with a shower bench, and the sink will need to be low enough to be used from a sitting position. The house will have a separate entrance that will allow Levi to access his new apartment without having to walk from the driveway in icy weather.

The family hopes the fundraiser will help defray the expected $100,000 cost of the renovation, which is set to begin in a few weeks. The fundraiser will be held Saturday at 5 p.m., at the Plattduetsche Park Restaurant on Hempstead Avenue in Franklin Square.

Members of the Holbrook Fire Department and the Suffolk County Court Officers Association have offered to donate labor and materials. A Bay Shore architect drew the plans on his own time. A roofer has promised to donate labor and materials.

“There are a lot of people behind me,” Levi said, as he confidently went back to his exercise routine.

Both parents said their son is excited about the fundraiser. “We feel thankful to God and our country that he is with us,” said Eric Levi. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel. He is going to do good things in his lifetime.”

Donate: Christopher Levi, c/o Holbrook Fire Department, 390 Terry Blvd., Holbrook, NY 11741

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One Response to “Opportunity to help remodel/adapt a Wounded Warrior’s home in Holbrook, NY 11741”

  1. olotliny Says:

    newsday.com/news/local/ny-lisold0903,0,573543.story
    Newsday.com
    Holbrook rebuilds house for injured vet

    BY MARTIN C. EVANS

    martin.evans@newsday.com

    8:22 PM EDT, September 2, 2008

    They poured over the crest of Holbrook’s Mollie Boulevard like a wave — 50 or so big-shouldered men who bore construction tools in their hands and determination in their hearts.

    Looking like a scrappy militia bent on waging a suburban war, they descended on a white split ranch, some to the garage, others fanning out into the backyard, all of them ready to go.

    “Morning, Levi family, we’re here,” Holbrook Fire Chief Rick Gimbl said in a booming voice. “You guys ready? Let’s go to work!”

    And with that — to the sudden thudding of hammer blows, the whine of power saws and the grunting of men at work — Holbrook proclaimed itself a town that cares for its own.

    Since last week, volunteers have been working on the home of Army Cpl. Christopher Levi, preparing it for the day the wounded Iraq War veteran will come home for good.

    As they work to rehab his home, Levi, 25, is working to rehab his gravely injured body. He lost both legs in March when a shaped charge explosive shattered the Humvee in which he was riding in Baghdad’s infamous Sadr City neighborhood. His legs were severed at mid-thigh, and part of a bone in his right hand was blown off.

    Levi is recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., where he is expected to spend most of the next year learning to get around on prosthetic legs.

    “He did the right thing for us,” Sean Garfen said of Levi’s service in Iraq. “So if he needs help, we have the resources,” said Garfen, a union electrician who put renovations at his own home on hold to work on Levi’s house.

    The effort began when a letter from Levi’s mother, Debbie Levi, found its way to Gimbl.

    Her letter said that a flight of stairs to the family’s split ranch home would thwart her son’s ability to use a wheelchair. She wondered whether anyone would volunteer to build a wooden ramp to the front door.

    Mike Heffron, a Holbrook firefighter who is a construction contractor by day, stepped up immediately. He figured with a few guys he could knock the job out in a weekend.

    But when he visited the Levi house last spring, Heffron saw that a ramp alone would be of little help.

    Although a it would get the Levi into his front door, other stairs inside the house would block his path. Narrow hallways would hinder his movements. The house’s cramped bathrooms would be mostly inaccessible to him. He would have a hard time preparing his own meals. Or even getting close enough to the sink to wash his hands.

    “If we are going to do this,” Heffron recalled thinking to himself, “we’re going to have to do it right.”

    With that, a $1,500 wooden ramp began its evolution to a $100,000 home renovation. And a Long Island town began showing its heart.

    The renovation, which is expected to be complete before Nov. 1, will convert the home’s attached garage and family room into a self-contained apartment that Levi can navigate using a motorized wheelchair.

    Volunteerism is part of the glue that binds Holbrook, a mostly blue-collar hamlet of some 28,000 people west of MacArthur Airport.

    Chief Gimbl, who has a son serving in the Marines, was in the New York City Fire Department’s hazardous materials unit on Sept. 11, 2001.

    His firehouse lost 19 men in the collapse of the World Trade Center, he said. Of the nearly 350 firefighters killed that day, Gimbl recalls having worked with at least 95 of them.

    “I feel America is the best place to live and, damn it, we have to do what we have to do to keep it that way,” Gimbl said. “The community came together, and I am proud of that.”

    Heffron, who has coached youth football and baseball in Holbrook, and has been a Cub Scout leader there, said he is no hero for volunteering.

    “I think you do what you can, when you can,” Heffron said. “Had this project begun a month and a half ago, I wouldn’t even be here, I would have been in Boston with my son.”

    That is because earlier this year, Heffron’s son, Kyle, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Suddenly, it was the Heffron family that needed help.

    Parents of players on Kyle’s St. Joseph’s Braves youth baseball team prepared meals every Saturday to give Heffron’s parents time to breathe. Fellow firefighters collected thousands of dollars to help with housing and other expenses while the Heffrons sought medical care for their son in Pittsburgh and in Boston.

    “It makes you feel good that you live in a community that cares,” said Herron’s wife, Karen.

    “The tumor is out, he’s doing great and he turned 15 yesterday,” Mike Heffron said.

    Members of the Levi family, some of whom had tears in their eyes as they greeted the volunteers on a Saturday in August, said even though they were not surprised by the community’s support, they were gratified by it.

    “It just blew my mind,” said Levi’s sister, Kimberly Levi, an assistant Suffolk County district attorney. “They came with their tools and the fire trucks and just started working.

    “You can’t put it into words; you can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”

    Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.


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