September 18, 2015
INDEPENDENCE – Staff Sgt. Paul Brondhaver’s life is about to change.
Right now he spends most of his time in a 15 by 10 room attached to his garage. He’s unable to travel through his split-level home in New Richmond, Ohio, because of wounds he suffered during his tour in Iraq.
“He can’t go up the stairs without extreme pain,” said Meredith Iler, chairman emeritus for Helping a Hero. “It’s a gut-wrenching daily existence.”
Helping A Hero, a nonprofit organization that provides specially adapted homes for severely wounded veterans, is going to change Brondhaver’s living situation. Helping a Hero has worked closely with Arlinghaus Builders to design every aspect of a 2,700-square-foot home in Independence for Brondhaver and his family. A ground-breaking ceremony will be 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at 10669 Windbrook Court Independence, lot No.186 in Williams Woods.
Lee Greenwood will join ground-breaking in Independence
The entire community is invited to celebrate, Iler said. The event will also feature country music singer and Grammy winner Lee Greenwood. He will sing a few songs, including “God Bless the USA.”
“You will have goosebumps as you hear this song live with a dozen wounded warriors and their families looking on,” Iler said. “It is not only a joy for Helping A Hero to do this but a duty. Giving these homes is a way to give back and say thank you to our veterans in a tangible way. Their gratitude and selflessness is evident. It is an honor and a privilege to do this.”
Brondhaver’s home, slated to be completed next spring, will be fully accessible with wider doors, a roll-in shower, roll-under sink, flush thresholds and other safety features. This is the second Helping A Hero home in the Cincinnati area and the third in Kentucky. Helping a Hero has built about 100 homes in 22 states.
“Paul is excited about moving into his specially adapted Helping a Hero home and living a more independent life in this incredible community,” Iler said. “This event will mark a new chapter of hope and recovery as Paul takes this exciting step toward independence after serving in Iraq and being injured when his team was ambushed.”
RPG attack left 300 pieces of shrapnel in Brondhaver
Paul Brondhaver joined the U.S. Army at age 17, before graduating from New Richmond High School in May 1986. He has traveled all over the world through his military service to places such as Honduras, Germany, Panama, Kuwait and Iraq. His state and country called on him to serve on active duty for 19 different missions and operations. He served with the 216th Combat Engineer Unit and the 1st Infantry Division in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003 through 2005.
Brondhaver’s tour ended early when his combat patrol was attacked with small arms fire and a rocket propelled grenade that exploded near his Humvee in Summara, north of Baghdad, Iraq, in July 2004. Paul’s body was riddled with more than 300 pieces of metal shrapnel in the attack, while a fellow soldier and friend was killed in the explosion. Paul has hearing loss, severe nerve damage, a traumatic brain injury and severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He has received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Brondhaver said the home is "a dream come true."
"It's neat that there are people out there who haven't forgotten about the troops," he said. "This house is a blessing to me and my children. Sometimes we get caught up in the negative of this world. I'm glad to see that there are still some positive people out there who want to help others. If we work to help others each day, we become better people and this country will become a better place to live."
Veteran is passionate about 'paying it forward'
Brondhaver himself is passionate about "paying it forward."
Although his injuries have forced him into early retirement, he's still doing all he can to make a difference in others' lives. In 2007 he retired from the Army with 21 years of service and is in the process of retiring from his job with the Cincinnati Recreation Department. In addition to numerous volunteer activities, Brondhaver has started the PB Foundation, an organization that supports military veterans and their families in various ways such as building wheelchair ramps and helping to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts for children of military members. The biggest part of the foundation is rescuing and training dogs for veterans.
"The best time I have is when I can give to others," he said. "I wanted to do something to ensure that veterans are never alone. Having a dog gives them that sense of companionship and the dog needs them and they need the dog. It gives them a reason to keep going."
Independence Mayor Chris Reinersman said the city is both “humbled and honored that a true American hero” has decided to call Independence home.
“This city has always appreciated and celebrated our many veterans and are grateful that organizations like Helping A Hero are out there to support them in such a big way,” he said. “It is also a great privilege to be joined by Mr. Greenwood, a man who inspired our nation at one of its darkest times and continues to use his talent to celebrate these heroes. I am confident that many of my fellow residents will join me on Monday morning to welcome the Brondhavers to Independence and let them know how much we appreciate those who sacrifice so much to preserve our Independence.”
Iler has requested that guests wear red, white and blue while attending the groundbreaking ceremony. To RSVP, email RSVP@helpingahero.org.