Community supporters turned out Saturday night to boost efforts by the Purcellville nonprofit HeroHomes to build new houses for military veterans.
The organization’s second annual casino night fundraiser was held at the Shadow Creek events center south of Purcellville. While chance to win at the poker table may have been an attraction, the stars of the evening were the wounded vets who are putting down roots in Loudoun thanks to the support of area businesses and volunteers.
The organization has completed two homes, one in Purcellville and one in Round Hill, for service members wounded in combat. Construction has just begun on a third house being built near Hillsboro for Sgt. William Slease and his family.
While watching Olympians achieve their childhood dreams last week, Slease’s 5-year-old daughter, Maggie, asked him what his dreams had been.
“Hon, I wanted to be a soldier. Ever since I was your age, I wanted to serve our country,” Slease said.
Slease said he was inspired to military service by hours spent on his grandfather’s lap listening to stories of his Navy adventures, serving in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. It was the tales of surviving sinking ships—and sharks—that inspired Slease’s enlistment in the Army, not the Navy, at age 19.
Slease experienced his first combat action during Desert Spring as a M1A1 tank driver. He also served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Kuwait, Bosnia, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq. During Operation Enduring Freedom, his unit led the race to Baghdad and received a Presidential Citation in 2003. He served four deployments during an eight-year period.
During his final deployment he lost three close friends in succession. He has since been diagnosed with severe PTSD and chronic depression related to the loss of his friends in combat, as well as with a traumatic brain injury. He suffers from short-term memory loss and has a hard time with crowds. He also has had neck and shoulder surgery and will require additional surgeries.
He had hoped to serve 30 years, but the injures forced his retirement after 22.
At Walter Reed National Medical Center and wondering what he and his family would do next, he received a call inviting him to meet at the Purcellville Family Restaurant. He was greeted by HeroHomes founders Jason Brownell, Matt Lowers and Scott Gessay.
“Jason says, ‘This is the Mayberry of the United States and we want to build a home for you and your family,'” Slease recalled.
The Hillsboro home is planned as a quiet refuge for Slease and his wife of 17 years, Alice, and Maggie.
“When I come to places like this, people always say ‘thank you.’ I also feel like I should be thanking you for allowing me the chance to serve this country,” Slease told the crowd Saturday.
Learn more about the all-volunteer organization at herohomesloudoun.org.