Coming Home: A Community Gives A Wounded Warrior A New Start

November 10, 2014 8:00 AM

Brian Aft poses for a photo with fellow wounded warrior and home recipient, Brandon Byers (left) and Raytheon Missile Systems employee and North Texas RAYVETS president James Bishop (middle). Photo Credit: Conner Howell

Brian Aft poses for a photo with fellow wounded warrior and home recipient, Brandon Byers (left) and Raytheon Missile Systems employee and North Texas RAYVETS president James Bishop (middle). Photo Credit: Conner Howell

This article is supplied and sponsored by Raytheon

Corporal Brian Aft and Buckshot, his bomb-sniffing dog, were in line to jump an irrigation ditch near Kajaki, Afghanistan, an area known for being littered with roadside bombs.

“My turn comes, and I’m walking in the boot prints of the guy in front of me. I get ready to push off, and I got one foot off the ground, I’m pushing off with my other, and boom,” Aft said.

The explosion lifted Aft and Buckshot into the air. Both survived, but Aft’s legs would have to be amputated almost to the hip. After recuperating in a German hospital, he spent two years in a wounded warrior battalion before retiring from the Marines and coming home to Texas.

This fall in McKinney, Texas, a group of friends, family members, and local and state leaders — including McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller and Texas state Representative Scott Sanford — welcomed Aft to the site of his future home. The house is being built especially for his needs through the support of Smiles Charity and local community partners like Raytheon.

Smiles Charity raises funds for veteran homes through its annual benefit concert, held on Memorial Day weekends in McKinney. Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems – headquartered in McKinney – donated $10,000 to help Smiles Charity fund the home.

Raytheon employee Geoff Clark met Aft last November and was instrumental in bringing his story to the attention of Smiles Charity.

“He’s living in an apartment, [and] it’s a challenge just for him to live right now,” Clark said. “Every day that I can reduce him [being] in that apartment and get him into a home that has some accommodations to make his life easier – the sooner we deliver, the better.”

Several volunteers helping to set up the fall event came from RAYVETS, a Raytheon-wide system of small groups working in support of veterans. That included James Bishop, president of the new North Texas RAYVETS group and a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army National Guard.

“It takes a while to come home,” Bishop said. “And for me, doing things for veterans helps me come home.”

The homebuilding is expected to complete this year. Aft said the first thing he wants to do is have a housewarming party and invite the corpsmen and fellow Marines who saved his life that fateful day in Afghanistan.

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