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Shreveport Times - Home for Wounded Soldier to Rise Soon PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Andrew Prime   
Friday, 30 September 2005 04:33

Home for wounded soldier to rise soon
Friday, September 30, 2005
By: John Andrew Prime

SPRINGHILL -- Cool, brisk winds kicked up by Thursday's sudden drop of the mercury put dust in the air here, but that wasn't what brought tears to more than one eye in the crowd that gathered on Percy Burns Road.

The spirit of a community loosed the tears as shovels twisted in the earth and moved the first soil for a home for wounded soldier Kyle Burleson, his wife and their two young children.


With no more than the usual cold and rain, come March a 3,000-square-foot, ultramodern home should rise.

"It's a little overwhelming," said Burleson, 22, who was paralyzed when a sniper targeted him in Baghdad on Aug. 18, 2004.

The bullet severed his spine. He was serving as a top gunner on a Humvee with the 2/5 Battalion of the 1st Cavalry.

"I didn't expect these people to be here. I didn't know it was going to be this big."

"These people" included Springhill Mayor John Herrington, what seemed to be half the Webster Parish sheriff's office, uniformed students from Springhill High and Brown Middle schools and well-wishers who ranged from friends and neighbors to strangers who appreciate what Burleson, a young man in uniform with his life ahead of him, sacrificed half a world away.

"Kyle served his country unselfishly by going to Iraq," Herrington told the crowd. "And now even though we can never repay him for what he's lost, his sacrifice, many people are coming together to try to make life a little easier for him and his family."

Burleson represents the sacrifice of young people toward the nation's defense, said Ken Koval, a representative of Veterans of Foreign Wars who has ramrodded local efforts to get the house for the Burlesons.

"While we're out here doing things such as maybe planning a vacation or doing some shopping, our military is over there defending this country from terrorism so they don't come up here in Springhill or any other place in this country," Koval said.

Helping cover half the cost of the $300,000 house is Massachusetts-based Homes for Our Troops. Kirt Rebello, its director of projects and veterans affairs, represented the agency at the ground-breaking.

"Kyle's an American hero," he said. After viewing a DVD showing the Burleson family's plight, "we knew right away we just wanted to help as soon as possible."

The energy-efficient house will take Kyle out of the two rooms he now can access in the century-old family home nearby.

"It'll have a wide-open floor plan," Rebello said. "When you think about it, this will be all that Kyle can move around in freely. And 3,000 square feet is not much when you consider that to be his whole life and where he's going to be moving around."

The plan will allow Burleson and his family the maximum ease of movement and care is being paid to the soldier's love for the outdoors, Rebello said.

"There's going to be a nice porch. And a long-term plan is to get a nice smooth path down to that pond down there," he said, motioning to a hollow in the distance, where the cleared land gives way to woods. "That way, he can down and get to the outdoors."

From what he now calls home, Kyle Burleson will be able to watch the house rise.

"I'll be able to get everywhere, to get in and out of places, all over the house instead of just two rooms," Kyle Burleson said.

"The kids will have their own rooms and a place where they can play," Kristi Burleson said. "It will be a bigger place for family."

Her eyes were among those that got a bit moist during the ceremony. And it wasn't just from the sight of 2-year-old Aly playing with a ceremonial shovel or Alex, just a few days shy of his first birthday, scampering around.

"It's kind of like getting a big hug from the community," Kristi Burleson said.

The close-knit family has had tough times in recent weeks. Aside from the turmoil of Kyle being wounded, recovering enough to come home and blending back into the family routine, the family patriarch, grandfather Kenneth Harrison, died suddenly Sept. 21 at age 72.

"It's been overwhelming," said Shelia Newton, one of Harrison's daughters and Kyle's aunt. "Daddy was more like a daddy to (Kyle) than a grandfather. It's been real rough on (Kyle), too."

The 80-voice Brown Middle "Ambassadors of Harmony" choir helped brighten the occasion under the energetic direction by Clara Devereaux, who'd been Kyle's sixth-grade teacher and was torn between happiness over him getting a dream house and having such a loving family and sadness over the fate that has overtaken him.

"I love Kyle," said Devereaux, whose mother, Gladys Bankhead, baby-sits the Burleson children. "He was very active in sixth grade, moving around a lot. And to see him today touched my heart. Singing for Kyle was a joy, it really was."

©The Times September 30, 2005

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 November 2008 04:43 )