All Bryan Anderson wants for the loss of his limbs, is a house for his friend that works.
Tony and Joedi live in paradise, but their home has become anything but a relaxing, or safe, place to be. Window frames are rotting through. Stairs are falling apart. The septic tank has collapsed one too many times. But it is still a home to SSG Tony Wood, his wife Joedi, and twelve beautiful kids. The house is not the only thing that has been damaged. Tony is a Purple Heart recipient from Operation Iraqi Freedom 2005.
Now back to the twelve children. Two of their children are biological. The other ten are fostered or adopted. Tony and Joedi live in Hawaii and have been fostering children since 1987. Married for twenty-six years, it seems a key to their lasting marriage has been the common goal of giving to others who did not have a home to call their own. Joedi's full time position is as a mother to all.
Two months after Tony was injured in Iraq, another member of his team - and his best friend - Bryan Anderson was seriously injured when the Humvee he was driving rolled over an IED. The explosion severed off both of his legs, his left arm, and parts of his right hand. It was Tony's face he saw when he opened his eyes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It is Tony's family he would like to help by creating a coalition to rebuild the Wood family home.
Bryan says, "If anything good can come out of all of this, there's only one thing I wish could happen. I want Tony to have a home that he deserves." As a triple amputee, Bryan now travels the country in support of various charities, a most personal one being The Gary Sinise Foundation.
Upon relocating to California this month, Bryan stayed with our family in Santa Clarita until his new apartment was ready. His passion for wanting to help the Wood family was contagious and we immediately began brainstorming. I called my friend JD Kennedy (former head of Veterans Affairs for our district's congressional office) - who was just 18 days away from Election Day- and by the next day we were in our living room along with Jeri Goldman of Santa Clarita Valley's KHTS Hometown Station and SCV Habitat For Heroes, and the Wood family home reconstruction project was born.
A MESSAGE FROM BRYAN
When I first met Tony, he had just re-classed as an MP from Infantry. I love meeting new people and like to think I have a pretty good judge of character. Not only was Tony one of “the good guys”, his sense of humor was razor-sharp. He was the kind of leader that had you laughing your ass of one minute, and ready to lead his team in a hot-second. He was the ultimate egalitarian that made everyone around him feel like they all mattered the same, but always functioned as a leader the guys respected. Being around Tony helped me reconstruct the harsh reality of being in a war zone, to being in a foreign country with my best friends, and with every move I made their lives were on the line. Tony gradually became a brother. Even though we were in the seeds of hell, his positive outlook and comedic timing made being in hell a lot more palatable.
Hearing about Tony’s incident was absolutely devastating. I don’t think anyone is actually prepared for that kind of news. As weeks dragged on, it was increasingly difficult to get any update from the states on his status. All we knew was that he survived and the prognosis was that he was going to “make it”.
Two months later, I was hit, and ended up at Walter Reed. Although my family was beside me, I had never felt so alone and isolated from my brothers. I had all sorts of feelings, like I took the easy way out because I didn't have to be in Iraq anymore. I felt guilty. All I wanted was information about my unit. I needed to connect with them, be a part of them if even on the telephone. Then one day I opened my eyes from my bed and Tony was standing there. It was Tony, man. Right there. And I just teared up. I was so happy to see him that suddenly I knew I would make it through whatever was ahead of me.
For the next few months we pulled one another through our healing process. Every day I knew he’d be there and it would be one more day that the world would be okay. Then, before I knew it, he was gone.
So much has happened since our days at Reed. We have both led busy lives, my work kept me traveling around the country on speaking tours and supporting different veteran charities, and Tony lived all the way in Hawaii, so it was tough seeing each other. Then one day I booked a job in Hawaii. The first thing on my list was to see Tony.
Seeing Tony was like no time had passed. The army does that to you. You have brothers for life. When I saw his house though, man, it was tough. There he was with a great wife and all these children – they have an awesome family. So much going on all the time. But I couldn’t help but see the structural condition their house was in. A military income is not that great, especially with twelve kids. Tony took pride in telling me about how whenever something goes wrong he figures it out, or his church comes together like the time their septic tank blew out. It seemed to me the only down-time Tony ever had was spent trying to keep his house from falling apart.
Through my travels and work with foundations, I've been able to help raise money for veterans for just about everything - including housing. Most soldiers that receive houses are amputees, but in my opinion, even though tony is not missing any limbs, he is the true definition of what a soldier should be, in and out of the war zone. Tony deserves this, but not just because he was injured, but because he is one of the guys that never asks for anything. All he does is give. He gives to everyone around him. He gave in Iraq and he hasn’t stopped since.
With everything that has happened to me, losing three limbs and all, if any good can come out of this, this is the only thing I’d wish for. If I am in a position to make a difference in the life of my friend – a true American hero, it’s my hope to see other good people come together with me to make this dream of mine come true.
If you are a company or individual who would like to contribute to the Wood Family Reconstruction Project please contact:
Bryan enlisted in the Army in April 2001 and had a ‘ship out’ date of September 11, 2001. He
served two tours of duty in Iraq and was stationed in the Baghdad area. He attained the rank of Sergeant in the Military Police (MP), conducted police training courses in Iraq and gained
additional law enforcement experience at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary as a prison guard.
In October 2005, Bryan was injured by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that resulted in the
loss of both legs and his left hand. As a result of his injuries, he was awarded a Purple Heart.
Bryan received rehabilitation for a period of 13 months at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He is one
of the few triple amputees to have survived his injuries in Iraq.
Bryan is the National Spokesman for Quantum Rehab, a division of Pride Mobility Corp., and
travels the country making numerous personal appearances while delivering his message of perseverance and determination in major rehab facilities. In addition, he is a spokesman for
USA Cares, a non-profit organization based in Radcliff, KY that is focused on assisting post
911 veterans in times of need.