Today, November 11, is Veterans Day, when we honor all who have served in our country's military. ABC-TV's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition "Rise and Honor" A Veterans Day Special (8pm ET/PT & 7pm CT) will offer a valuable reminder of the importance of this day, telling the stories of several veterans and their families -- and the revitalized homes that have helped provide them a new lease on life.
Their sacrifices are extraordinary: you'll see Daniel Gilyeat, who lost his leg in Iraq; Patrick Tutwiler, shot through the neck; Allen Hill, nearly killed by a roadside bomb; Gene Westbrook, hit by shrapnel; and Patrick Ziegler, shot in the Fort Hood rampage.
Friday's program reminds me just how special our service members are. Though he was badly wounded, Staff Sergeant Ziegler never lost the determination that made him such an exemplary soldier. "I never accepted the fact that that doctor said I wouldn't walk... I just wanted to continue to live." Describing the impact of his rehabilitation and his new house, he says, "I have an entire new life to look forward to."
Sergeant Westbrook was paralyzed from a mortar round in Iraq and suffered more from an automobile accident here at home. But he wants to work with other soldiers to help them overcome the obstacles they face.
And Sergeant Gilyeat, USMC, is grateful "for every breath I take" in his second chance at life. He lost his leg but feels that he didn't give enough, because after all, others gave more. "We should never take it in vain that people are willing to die for us," he says.
Not all the featured personnel were wounded. Jason Thomas was out of the Marine Corps when the terrorist attacks occurred in 2001. He put his uniform back on, rushed to the ruins of the World Trade Center, and helped rescue two Port Authority policemen buried in the rubble. At a time when a shameful number of our veterans are living in shelters or in the streets, Veteran Barbara Marshall has devoted her post-Navy life to helping other female veterans adjust and avoid homelessness.
These people, these service members, these heroes -- they lay their lives on the line for us here at home so that we can build a stronger country and a more fair, just, and prosperous society. They deserve our help, especially those struggling with the legacy of physical, mental and emotional wounds.
For this special Veterans Day tribute, the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), Hollywood's leading charitable organization, teamed up with "EMHE" on its "Rise and Honor" initiative. The purpose is to raise money for groups helping our heroes navigate the many tough issues they face after arriving home. Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, USO (United Service Organizations), Volunteers of America, Welcome Back Veterans, Hire Heroes USA, and Fisher House Foundation are among the organizations assisting veterans with their physical, social, and emotional needs, which run the gamut from housing, job placement and career readiness, to healthcare, rehabilitation and mental health treatment.
At EIF, we are enormously grateful to "EMHE" and ABC-TV for putting on an incredible show that will touch your heart and remind us all of the enormous power of compassion and commitment. Community volunteers help renovate or build these houses, giving their time and effort to help neighbors in need. It's truly the American spirit in action.
If you can't tune in to the show, you can donate by calling 1-877-96-HONOR (1-877-964-6667) or by going online to www.riseandhonor.org.
On 11/11/11, let's honor our veterans and let them know that we, the people they protect, will not forget their service -- that we'll welcome them home with open and grateful arms.