Soldier lays down arms, picks up peace of mind
FORT POLK, LA —
In 1943, Abraham Maslow outlined a pyramid-shaped hierarchy of needs that ranked crucial essentials for human survival. Basic physiological necessities form the bottom layer, which provide a solid base for the remaining tiers of safety; love and belonging; and esteem. Self-actualization - reserved only for those who have the bottom levels
firmly in place - sits at the top of the structure.
Rising to the apex of human existence requires the basics - air, food, water and sleep - no matter how great or small the man, woman or child. Whether obtained through inheritance, personal struggle or heroic deed, some believe no one is more deserving of peaceful sleep than a warrior and his family.
Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Campbell is such a man - an American Soldier who put his life on the line while protecting his fellow countrymen's freedom in the mountains of Afghanistan with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. And he and his Family are the recipients of a mortgage-free home through the Military Warriors Support Foundation, a non-profit charity founded by retired Lt. Gen. Leroy Sisco.
The organization provides support to the nation's combat wounded heroes and Gold Star Families as they transition out of the military and into their new civilian lives through donated homes, academic and employment assistance and recreational activities.
Campbell, his wife Sara and their two daughters - 7-year-old Lydia and 5-year-old Hannah - will move into the home located in Muncie, Ind., in October. They also receive three years of Family and financial mentoring through the foundation.
In 2007, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Campbell's high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade as his platoon guarded its forward operating base.
Campbell crawled into the gunner's hatch and returned fire throughout the six-hour battle. He was hit by shrapnel in his right arm and left foot and was later awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor for his bravery in combat.
In November 2012, Campbell was assigned to the Joint Readiness Training Center Operations Group at Fort Polk. While driving into Leesville to purchase air mattresses for his Family, who had not yet received their household goods, Campbell heard a radio advertisement for the Operation Grateful Nation event taking place at the Leesville fairgrounds that same afternoon, and sponsored by the Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce.
The announcement said retired Capt. Sean Parnell would speak at the celebration. Parnell served as Campbell's platoon leader in Bravo Company and wrote a New York Times best-selling book "Outlaw Platoon" - a personal account of the events that transpired during the sixteen brutal months of nearly continuous battle the platoon faced in the deadly Hindu Kesh. The two men hadn't seen each other for more than five years.
Parnell introduced Campbell to the Military Warrior Support Foundation and Boot Campaign representatives who were on hand to award a mortgage-free home to another Fort Polk Family - Staff Sgt. Edward and April Cummings. Leesville business woman Louise Thaxton, national director of military mortgage specialists of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, took Campbell under her wing and helped guide him through the application process for his own mortgage-free home.
Over the past 14 months, Thaxton has helped eight Wounded Warriors receive mortgage-free homes and has eight more assists in the works before the end of this year.
"I have been on a mission for several years to do whatever I can to give back to our Soldiers returning home from war," said Thaxton. "I truly feel we can't do enough for the men and women who serve in our military. I want to do my part to give back to those who have given everything."
Because of his war injuries, Campbell is medically retiring. He knew he would have to process through the medical board at some point, but the timeline moved faster than he anticipated.
"My plans were to retire after 20 years of service and become an RN," he said. "If I were staying in the Army, I'd have had seven or eight years left to make these (life-changing) decisions."
Receiving the mortgage-free home has eased Campbell's mind considerably. "This is a huge relief because now I don't have to find a house and I don't have to pay rent or a mortgage," he said. "I don't have any stress other than trying to deal with my own medical issues because of this gift."
Campbell will spend time with his Family hunting, fishing and taking care of his property. He accepts the fact he will most likely be unemployable because of his injuries and has transferred his GI Bill to his wife so she can go back to school and continue her educational pursuits.
"I won't have a financial burden because this will help my Family. We'll be able to live comfortably and do the things we enjoy," he said.
Campbell also hopes to work with a nonprofit organization assisting Soldiers that are dealing with the transition from military to daily civilian life. "It's been hard for me for the past couple of weeks - hard to get out of the Soldier routine," he said. "Once I adjust, I want to help other Soldiers make the transition."
Military Warriors Support Foundation awards mortgage-free homes to wounded heroes injured during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The homes are for Families who have severe and/or unique circumstances due to their injuries received while serving the United States of America. Visit www.militarywarriors.org for more information about the Military Warrior Support Foundation.
The Boot Campaign is a non-profit military appreciation and veteran awareness operation that was launched by a group of women known as "the boot girls." This non-profit organization donates proceeds to programs caring for military personnel. For additional information visit www.bootcampaign.com.
Visit nralifeofduty.tv and type "Outlaw Platoon" into the search bar to watch video of Campbell, Parnell and their battle buddies' experience in the mountains of Afghanistan in support of OEF 07.