Sometimes, even heroes need to ask for help.
Jason Moseley’s home in Bridgeport was in shambles, and Moseley, an Iraqi War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, was in no shape to fix it up. So he turned to RenovatingHope, a nonprofit that thanks American soldiers for their sacrifices by fixing up their homes at no cost.
Moseley won a Purple Heart after his second tour in Iraq. The Georgia native first enlisted in the army in January 2005 in his late teens, prompted by his uncles’ service as well as the grim job market. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in Watertown. Later that year, he was deployed to Baghdad. On a mission through the city, his unit witnessed its truck commander’s Humvee strike an explosive device. The truck commander was killed. Moseley and his unit were then ordered to “collect his body parts and the debris of the Humvee,” according to a biography provided by Moseley’s Wounded Warrior transition officer, Cynthia Cuppernell. “As you can imagine, the experience was emotionally scarring and haunts him today.”
Moseley returned home to his fiancée, Erinn Cox, and his two children briefly, but soon received orders for a second deployment, this time to Kirkuk. Five months into that tour, on Nov. 24, 2007, while on patrol, Moseley’s unit was attacked. Moseley was injured by an incoming enemy mortar round. The force of the mortar blast threw Jason five feet into the air, slamming him into a Humvee. Jason suffered a traumatic brain injury, a bilateral eye injury and injured his right knee and right shoulder. He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was flown to Germany for treatment then Air Force One took Jason and others to Washington, D.C. for further treatment. At last, he was flown to Fort Drum’s Wounded Warrior Treatment Program, where he eventually received a medical discharge from the army.
It was that attack that earned Moseley the Purple Heart. According to U.S. Army regulation, the Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president of the United States to any member of the armed forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. armed services after April 5, 1917, has been wounded or killed or who has died after being wounded.
Though he was able to return home, Moseley’s injuries continue to plague him; he has yet to regain full use of his right shoulder and will likely require another surgery. He wears a brace on his right knee. He’s in pain much of the time.
As a result, it became a struggle for Moseley and Cox to keep up their Oneida Park home, which had been in poor condition for some time before Moseley was deployed. The roof needed replacing, there was little to no insulation in places, the pipes and tub leaked and the property was covered in garbage. Though it was not in his character to do so, Moseley knew he had to ask for help.
Through Cuppernell and the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, Moseley was connected to RenovatingHope, a not-for-profit organization based in Westtown, Pa. RenovatingHope oversees extensive renovations of the homes of veterans in the hopes of helping them move toward a better future.
“It’s beyond them to say, ‘This is a handout,’” said Paul Hoffecker, founder and CEO of RenovatingHope. “I can’t tell you sometimes the language I have to use to convince another one, not to say this is a handout, but that this is the only thing we know how to do as a grateful nation. Let us come in and make your life a little more palatable, and move on.”
Hoffecker, a former Philadelphia hospital administrator, founded the organization about five years ago after witnessing the deplorable conditions in which some recent veterans were living.
“A gentleman, an army staff sergeant, came up to me and said, ‘Hey, would you be honored to help out fellow army personnel?’” he said. “I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I was never so shocked to find a family of four living so impoverished. How can that happen in our country?”
The staff sergeant had approached Hoffecker on behalf of another veteran, who was too proud to reach out on his own. In order to help him, Hoffecker used his connections in the community to put together something similar to ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” At the vet’s request, there was no fanfare to celebrate the renovation, but that didn’t mean that was the end of it.
“What struck me and why I gave up my career, he said to me, ‘There are thousands of us,’” Hoffecker said.
So Hoffecker set out to do something about it. He set up a 501(c)3 corporation, as well as partnerships with such entities as Home Depot, the PenFed Foundation, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and many others so that he could fund his mission to help struggling veterans.
“I said to myself, ‘If you’re coming home to a place that doesn’t have heat, that has a leaky roof or the mold in the bathroom is so bad, or things are backing up from your sewer, and all that, how is a person able to focus and raise his family and go forward if there’s not even a place for him to be safe and secure in his own home?’” Hoffecker said.
Catherine Ferran, chief of Army Community Services at Fort Drum, the army’s social services program, praised RenovatingHope for providing the kinds of services that the army often can’t.
“Sometimes, we cannot do everything that the soldier and his family needs,” Ferran said. “That’s why it’s so important that we have people within our own communities, organizations out there like Home Depot and Pen Fed and Renovating Hope. You pick up where we can no longer provide the services that our soldiers need.”
In addition to the relief it provides to soldiers and veterans, RenovatingHope also helps the economy.
“For four or five years now, there has been no work [for local contractors],” Hoffecker said. “This project changes that. We’re hiring them, we’re paying them, to come around and do the work for these men and women. Those same contractors that I’m hiring are paying payroll taxes now, they’re paying sales taxes, because they’re buying stuff from places like Home Depot. It’s a win-win.”
For Jason Moseley’s home, Manlius-based John W. White Construction Co. took on the bulk of the work, earning high praise from Hoffecker as well as Moseley himself.
“I want to thank John for being there, for doing construction on my house, working countless hours, being away from his wife, his family, to be here with me, to make sure that my house was up to standards of livable conditions,” Moseley said.
“He came forward… and took the bull by the horns,” Hoffecker said. “Not only did he give hours and time without being paid … I was able to walk away and not have to worry about anything he was doing. Jason, I think you’ll agree that he looked out for you, realizing the pain and suffering that you’re in and did what he could to make it easier for you. He’s one of the guys that gets it.”
Now that his home is livable again, Moseley is ready to look to the future. He and Cox are planning their wedding, and Moseley hopes to go to culinary school.
But despite all he’s been through and the severity of the injuries he’s suffered, Moseley has no regrets.
“I’m so proud to have served my country, and I’d do it again,” he said. “That’s how much I love this place.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.