If you appreciate the sacrifice of our military members and their families, then I encourage you to read this story of one man and his three girls and their struggle to stay together as a family. His name is Richard Clark-Bartlett and during 18 years in the military he spent a total of 7 (SEVEN!!!) YEARS deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Can you even fathom that?
While in Tampa over the summer I had the pleasure of meeting a building contractor from St. Petersburg Florida named Cathi Chamberlain who likes to help wounded warriors during her free time on weekends at no cost to the veteran. When she went to do some work for this family, she discovered that this man was in a very desperate situation and would not make it without outside help. Cathi started a campaign to first get him a car, and now thanks to Cathi's initiative to take action, and the generosity of Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay (RTTB) - a local non-profit organization, the family will be taking ownership of a 100% donated home in Tampa that is currently being rehabbed and will be turned over to the family on Veterans Day, November 11 2013. How cool is that?
Despite all of this great momentum to help Richard and his girls, they still face many challenges because Richard is seriously disabled and the amount of money he receives from his Veterans disability is shameful in my opinion after all this man has sacrificed for his country. It is not nearly enough to support a family of four. Some folks are helping Richard to lobby the VA for more money but that could take over a year to get resolved. To help bridge the gap, Cathi has assembled an army of volunteers to help address several areas of need that the family has.
I could not help but to get involved in this campaign to help Richard and his girls. I hope as you read their story below, you will want to join me in a fund raising campaign that I am running to provide some very nice things to make their back yard a wonderful place for them spend time together as a family and re-coop the years that were lost during Richard's deployments and rehabilitation. I want to have these items in place for the turnover of their new home on 11 November so this is a short "“ one month - fund raising campaign.
My goal is to raise $5,000 to purchase the following items:
1. A nice swing set for the girls
2. Three new bikes for the girls
3. Some nice patio furniture
4. A gas BBQ grill
5. A picnic table and umbrella
6. A fire pit
7. A riding lawn mower (Richard cannot push a mower because he walks with a cane and has severe back problems from injuries sustained in combat)
8. A weed trimmer and other assorted items for taking care of the lawn and property.
Here is their story:
Richard has served with honor in the military for 18 years. First in the Marines with the Marine Wing Support Squadron, then on to the Army with the 1st Cavalry, next with the Arkansas National Guard with the 39th; and then back to the Army for his final stint. Of those 18 years, he spent a total of 7 years deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. His first tour came immediately following 9-11. His last was 2[phone redacted]. That is when he got injured. During Richard's final deployment, he sustained both mental and physical injuries due to an IED attack on his convoy severe enough to force him into early retirement on a medical discharge on April 14th, 2009 with a 90% disability.
One would think that sacrifice alone would be enough for one human being's entire lifetime. Unfortunately, not for Richard. During one of his deployments, Richard's wife left him, taking with her his entire life savings...and, the children.
Through some poor lifestyle decisions by Richard's ex-wife, Richard was able to fight for and gain full custody of his daughters which occurred in June, 2012.
After a considerable amount of medical care, including back surgery, Richard's disability has now been downgraded to 70%. Unfortunately, his medical retirement pay is less than regular retirement pay; plus, each downgrade of his disability, downgrades his benefits. Despite all these struggles this family has had to endure, the love and happiness they display is indescribable...and, they clearly make the most of their situation.
They currently live in a single-wide, 2-bedroom trailer but it is fast becoming too small for this family of four. Richard lets the girl sleep in the beds and he sleeps on a sofa in the living room EVEN with his severe back injuries. But, most concerning to Richard is the safety of his children living in an area that includes 190 registered pedophiles. The new home will be a very welcomed improvement to the quality of life and safety for the girls.
At 12, Miracle is the little mommy of the house. She is smart as a whip, very friendly, always has a smile on her face and questions everything. Miracle aspires to be an artist and loves colors. She is in middle school and is a very disciplined student. Her daddy depends on her help the most, especially when he forgets things, so Miracle has had to grow up quickly. She is very protective of her little sisters.
As is often the case with middle sisters, Faith is the shy and wary one. But, when a smile cracks through, it shines bright. At 9 years old, Faith loves reading and writing and hopes one day to become a writer. Faith is definitely the serious one whose age belies what seems to be a wisdom deeper than her years.
Patience is an adorable little 4 year-old full of life and love. Waiting for her two front teeth to grow out doesn't stop her constant smile. She aspires to be a singer and definitely has the personality! While she isn't in school yet, she and her daddy are at home each day anxiously awaiting her big sisters' return.
Richard represents the best of our country...abroad, and at home; and, has sacrificed so much for those of us who have been lucky enough to be home with our loved ones for the 7 years he spent deployed.
If you can help, I know that you will be helping a family that will be deeply thankful. As a proud former military man, I don't believe Richard could ever have asked for this help on his own. He is an incredibly humble man. But, when it comes to his kids...there are no bounds.
Thank you and may God Bless any amount you can afford to give.
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