Sunday, October 30, 2005

House becomes a home for (Iraq war) hero


By VICKI BERRY, C-T Lifestyle Editor

He received a hero’s welcome when he returned to his newly renovated home Wednesday, however, Bobby Isaacs does not refer to himself in that manner at all.

"I was just doing what I was told," he said, matter-of-factly.

Retired Cpl. Bobby Isaacs, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. was initially given an imminent death retirement because he wasn’t expected to recover from injuries he received while serving in Iraq.

And just as understatedly, the Roxboro resident was prompted to join the armed forces following the 9/11 tragedy.

Isaacs said he had tossed around the idea of joining the Army prior to the 9/11 attacks. "That gave me the push," he said.

In March of 2003 Isaacs was deployed to Iraq. After serving in several Iraqi cities, events led to an occurrence that would change the young man’s life forever.

Isaacs recently recalled the events of that day near Mosul. Isaacs and others in his division were part of a convoy. He explained that he was standing behind his staff sergeant who was sitting in the passenger’s seat. The convoy was ambushed with small arms fire and a roadside bomb that shattered the bones in both of Isaacs’ legs and severed the femoral artery.

"My staff sergeant was killed," he said.

Isaacs too, came very close to losing his life. "I was resuscitated three times," he said.

Following a few days in a field hospital, Isaacs was taken to Germany before being sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the U.S. There, he spent the next year, lost both legs and underwent 39 operations. While it doesn’t sound like fun, Isaacs said he was happy to be there.

"I was just glad I was in a hospital and not in a body bag," he said.

During his stint in the hospital and through a fellow patient, Isaacs fatefully met John Gonsalves, founder of Homes for Our Troops. Although Isaacs was not aware of it at the time, that meeting was the first of several to follow that would have a positive impact and outcome.

Isaacs left Walter Reed Hospital and moved back to Roxboro to live with his mother, Pat Isaacs, and although he was out of the hospital, he was not finished with the medical visits. It was necessary for Isaacs to go to Veterans Hospital in Durham for his prosthesis and follow-up care. And that is when Isaacs had another fateful encounter.

He met Charlotte Riggle, who works as a technician with the Center for Orthotic and Prosthetics at Duke University.

"She makes the legs," he said.

That was then. Now, together, plans are being laid for a wedding ceremony for the two on July 1.

Future plans for Isaacs include returning to school in the spring, probably at a local community college, he said. From there, he is considering a career as a physician’s assistant.

However, his plans do not involve moving.

When Isaacs left Walter Reed Medical Center to come back to Person County, he was told by Gonsalves to begin looking for a house and, if possible, Homes for Our Troops would buy and adapt the house to meet his special needs.

This past June, he found the house and Homes for Our Troops made the purchase along with plans to renovate the structure so that Isaacs could move in by December.

That move-in date was stepped-up a notch when Homes for Our Troops combined forces with the ABC network television show Extreme Makeover Home Edition and, in a blitz-like fashion, the house was adapted, renovated, furnished and ready for its new occupant in 48 hours.

On Wednesday, amidst television fanfare, Gonsalves handed Isaacs the key and the deed to his new home – a charitable act from Homes for Our Troops to help the veteran achieve his future dreams.

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