ABERDEEN, N.C. – Helping a Hero and Bass Pro Shops held a ground breaking ceremony for a wheelchair-accessible home for retired Army SGT. Joseph Bartel who lost his leg in Iraq. Country music icon Lee Greenwood, the National Ambassador of Helping a Hero, sang “God Bless the USA” with hundreds of future neighbors and community leaders singing along.

Joe grew up in Alaska, the oldest of 7. He loved hunting and fishing and competed in track. In 2000, Sergeant Bartel joined the Marines and in 2003 deployed with the Marines for 9 months during the initial invasion of Iraq. A few years later, he joined the Army and on his 2nd deployment to Iraq as part of the surge, he lost his leg and was forced to medically retire.

Sergeant Bartel was a dismounted team leader in the 3rd ID of the Bradley unit. On the fateful day, Joe and his Bradley unit headed out for a mission in 110-degree heat. He had a strong faith and believed that God was always protecting him. That day, he felt God tell him “Put on your gear…NOW”. He immediately told his team to gear up and within seconds of securing the gear in place, the Bradley hit an anti-tank mine and SGT Bartel was thrown against the back door and blacked out instantly. When he woke up in the hospital, he learned he had lost his leg and that he would have died had his helmet not been secured on his head. He credits God with saving his life and is grateful for the second chance with his family.

NASCAR’s Richard Childress hosted Helping a Hero’s Lee Greenwood Patriot Awards event at Childress Vineyards last May where Johnny Morris, Founder of Bass Pro Shops, announced he would fund TEN Helping a Hero homes. In addition, Johnny Morris has pledged 25% of the funding needed for the next 100 Helping a Hero homes. Helping a Hero and Johnny Morris have launched the 100 Homes Challenge and invite Americans and companies to join the challenge to fully fund these 100 homes.

Sergeant Joseph Bartel is the first Bass Pro Shops home recipient for the Helping a Hero homes donated through Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops.

SGT Bartel said, “Christine and I are overwhelmed by the generosity of Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops. Watching Helping a Hero put this home together has been a blessing as they have factored in every challenge I face on a daily basis through the design of this home.”

Meredith Iler, founder of the Helping a Hero Home Program, said, “SGT Joe Bartel is an American patriot who is humble and has asked for nothing for his service and sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy. In fact, he says “I was only doing my job.” It took Helping a Hero’s “Nominate a Hero” program to identify this hero who was struggling every day going up and down stairs in his current home to his bedroom while pushing through the daily pain he endures while wearing a prosthetic leg. Thank you, North Carolina, for nominating this hero who will now have his independence restored through this specially designed Helping a Hero home.”

Pinehurst-based Caviness Land Development President, P.J. Gay said, “Caviness Land Development is honored to lead this build and we are going to do everything possible to welcome this family home for Christmas. The outpouring of support from our subcontractors and suppliers shows the gratitude for the service and sacrifice of Sergeant Bartel and all of our wounded heroes.”

SGT Bartel looks forward to living in the Winds Way Farms subdivision where he will have a wheelchair-accessible home to make daily living easier. The 3,300 square foot home features wider doors, a roll-in shower, a roll under sink, and other safety features. This home includes a screened-in porch backing up to mature trees and will provide Joe the peaceful setting needed to rebuild his life.

Monday’s ceremony featured a group of home school children joining Mrs. North Carolina Victoria Huggins leading the Pledge of Allegiance, a color guard of JROTC cadets, and hundreds of people to cheer and support this hero. Hundreds of flags were flying and patriotism was displayed as the community celebrated this veteran’s journey home.

Texas-based Helping a Hero is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization providing support for military personnel severely injured in the war on terror. Our principal activity is to provide specially adapted homes for qualifying service members as well as engaging the community to provide services and resources for our wounded heroes and their families. Helping a Hero is one of the largest home-building organizations in the nation for wounded veterans. Our home recipients include veterans from 23 states whose permanent injuries have left them paraplegics, quadriplegics, amputees, with a severe TBI, blind, and with severe burns.

Helping a Hero partners with the homebuilder, the community, and the veteran on each home. Our home recipients are responsible for three things: 1) a $50,000 mortgage, 2) to live in the home as his/her primary residence for a minimum of 10 years, and 3) Use of the VA Specially Adapted Housing grant if eligible.

Helping A Hero is accepting applications from eligible wounded warriors needing a specially adapted home. We also invite the public to Nominate a Hero by completing the nomination form. Both the application and the Nominate a Hero form are available on our website at www.helpingahero.org.