Fox Nation's "Building Homes for Heroes" delved into the heartwrenching story of a U.S. Air Force captain, who was severely injured by a Taliban rocket attack and received a new home upon his miraculous return.
U.S. Air Force Captain Nathan Nelson enlisted in 2006 and began to climb the ranks as a military officer within his unit. Six weeks after marrying his long-time girlfriend, Jennifer, Nelson was sent on his second deployment abroad and returned home to news of a baby on the way. As life seemed to be falling into place, Nelson was deployed back to Afghanistan, with a guarantee that he would make it back home in time for the birth of his first child.
"There have been a lot of women who have been pregnant before me," said his wife, Jennifer, "and they had done dozens of deployments and had multiple children and I thought, 'Hey, if they can do it I guess I can too' and his commander promised me, 'Jen, I will have him home before you're due', and I said 'Okay, I'll take your promise.'"
Weeks into what would become his last deployment, Nelson was sent to visit a Special Forces team within Afghanistan, when the base was suddenly hit by indirect rocket fire from local Taliban militants.
"It just happened to have hit the building I was in," recounts Nelson. "The rocket hit the wall I was laying against."
Nelson's lungs immediately collapsed, and he began to notice paralysis in his legs. He remained in a coma for weeks, before he was deemed stable enough to be flown back home to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which would become his new temporary home.
In addition to suffering a serious spinal cord injury, Nelson suffered a traumatic brain injury, severe shrapnel wounds, multiple spinal fractures, severe tissue damage to his left ankle, and severely bruised organs including his liver, heart, lung, bowels, and kidneys. He also underwent a massive blood transfusion and tracheostomy and began working through his rehabilitation.
Jennifer recounted the evening she was told of her husband's attack and her reaction to the sudden reality that life would never be the same.
"Their lips were moving," she said, "but you're under such panic and anxiety that it's almost like a deafening ringing because that's when the older chapter closes and the new one begins and you literally have no idea what's going to happen next. I wanted to hide in my closet and cry," she said.
The weeks following Nelson's return home were brutal, explained Jennifer, who was in her third trimester of pregnancy at the time. Nelson remained in the hospital under intensive care and kept his spirits high, despite doctors' grave medical prognosis.
"I didn't think about the long terms effects of the paralysis. I was just so excited that I was alive because I knew I should've died there. The process and implications of a lifetime of paralysis came later," said Nelson.
"Doctors were telling me right out of the gate Nathan's never going to have a quality of life, he's never gonna drive a car, work a job, he is never going to be the dad he envisioned," explained Jennifer. "He is now in a bed-bound condition at 30 years old for the rest of his life," she continued, "and I said 'You have no clue who we are.'"
In the months that followed, the Nelson's and their new baby girl permanently relocated to Tampa, Florida, so Nathan could resume his intensive rehabilitation efforts.
It became clear after Nelson's release from the hospital that a standard home would not accommodate his new needs due to the paralysis, explained the couple. Building Homes for Heroes, a non-profit charitable organization that provides mortgage-free homes for wounded veterans got wind of Nelson's story and swept in to save the day.
In December 2017, Captain Nelson, his wife Jennifer, and their 3-year-old daughter arrived at their new mortgage-free home, custom-tailored to accommodate his new medical needs.
Nelson's home is one of the 170 custom homes built by the organization to date. In an earlier episode of "Building Homes for Heroes" on Fox Nation, CEO and founder Andy Pujol, who created the organization to give back following the September 11th terrorist attacks, said he hopes to impact many more lives of wounded veterans and their families in the near future.
15 years after its launch, Building Homes for Heroes has built homes to accommodate it all, changing the lives of disabled veterans across the country, with the goal of building 300 homes by 2022. Their small team, many of whom do not take a salary, said they are "overwhelmed every day" and excited about extending the organization to offer more services, such as psychiatric care and financial planning assistance.
"The heroes are our veterans, the heroes are those that served at 9/11. They went and served their country. They put on those wings, and they ran straight into it and they never grew weary," said Pujol. "I'm determined to keep going and press on to reach our 200th home, our 500th home...it gives all of us the ability to have that opportunity to serve our country."
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