By Brian Scott
Johnnie Yellock II has broken ground on a lot of special homes for American heroes, but this ground breaking will be the one he never forgets: his own.
On Thursday the non-profit group Helping-a-Hero broke ground in Lantana on a new, custom home for Yellock. Yellock serves as Veteran Liaison for the group that helps injured veterans, but is also one himself.
On July 6, 2013 while serving in the U.S. Air Force Combat Control, the vehicle Yellock was riding in drove over an I.E.D. nearly killing the North Texan. "I was catapulted up onto the top of the vehicles," said Yellock.
"I looked down and saw both of my legs had open fractures; I could actually see the bottoms of my feet."
Yellock actually tied tourniquets onto both of his legs to stop the bleeding so that he could continue to aid his squad until help got to him. "Never crossed my mind that I wasn't going to make it,” he said.
Yellock was transported out and had to undergo a series of about thirty surgeries to the date in order to save his legs. He now has to wear special braces to act as his ankles so that he can walk.
However, if you didn’t know about the injury you may not even notice anything is wrong with the now medically retired Sergeant. "I want to not let this event define me for the rest of my life," said Yellock.
Despite the injuries he got right back to life at home; continuing to do as much as he can and putting his service to use helping other wounded veterans. When the braces come off at home though, Yellock still has a tough go. ""I can't walk without the braces," he said.
So Helping a Hero plans to build Yellock’s new home 100% accessible with ramps, extra space, and other accommodations to help him get around and live a normal life.
During the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, hundreds of supporters including his new neighbors, local elementary school students, and service members from across Denton County came out to salute Yellock and cheer him on.
Yellock’s family were also in attendance; his father and mother both Air Force veterans as well, and his sister who said Johnnie is a constant inspiration. "To see him here now, it's amazing,” said Brandi Yellock-Witte.
"I call my son my hero,” added mom Reagan. “I could not be more proud of Johnnie."
Yellock plans to make the new house a long-time home with his dog Argos by his side. He also plans to continue working for his fellow veterans through Help a Hero and his own organization the Mark Forester Foundation; a group named for 1 of 2 close friends to Yellock that died during his first tour in the Air Force and whom he said inspired him to go back.
"I was motivated to go back and see the enemy after they had taken two of my friends from me," he said. Yellock still wears 2 bracelets for those men every day. Help a Hero plans to have the home ready, promptly on July 6th which will mark 2 years since the explosion that injured Yellock; what he now calls his Alive Day.