Team Patriot Gets Wounded Veterans Serving Again

September 26, 2019 • United States

Veterans and their spouses have a new mission—through Team Patriot, they can serve homeowners affected by natural disasters.

U.S. Disaster Relief

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Brandon Price was performing a routine training session with the Afghan Army when his students suddenly turned on him and ambushed him and his squadron with gunfire. Brandon took two bullets to the chest plate and one to his leg, and as he was being treated by a medic, a remote-powered grenade landed 12 feet away from him.

Brandon Price cuts a piece of railing for Manuel Vega's home.

Brandon Price cuts a piece of railing for Manuel Vega’s home in Texas.

The concussive blast knocked him in the air and threw him down the side of a 15-foot embankment. “I broke all the ribs on one side of my body, I had a hairline fracture in my pelvis, a hairline fracture in my femur, and a closed head injury,” Brandon said.

The explosion also caused substantial swelling in his brain, forcing doctors to place him in a medically-induced coma for three months. When he came to, he had to relearn basic skills such as reading, talking, writing, and walking.

Now, 12 years later, Brandon is not only walking, but he is serving his country in a different way: with Team Patriot, a brand-new Samaritan’s Purse initiative that gives Operation Heal Our Patriots participants the opportunity to volunteer in hard-hit communities following natural disasters.

“I never thought I would be able to do anything like this. I felt sorry for myself, like this was what God had for me—a miserable, angry human being,” Brandon said. “Team Patriot gives me purpose.”

A Call to Action

Brandon and his wife Ashley participated in Operation Heal Our Patriots—the Samaritan’s Purse ministry to wounded U.S. military veterans and their spouses—in 2015, together experiencing a week of Bible-based marriage enrichment in Alaska.

Brandon, far right, and Team Patriot members with homeowner Manuel.

Brandon, far right, and Team Patriot members with homeowner Manuel.

Brandon was overwhelmed with how the Operation Heal Our Patriots staff demonstrated God’s love to him and Ashley. For the first time in a long time, he felt loved unconditionally despite his injuries and his past. Brandon left the week not only with a stronger marriage, but with a relationship with Jesus Christ and was baptized in Lake Clark.

“I found God—truly found Him—in Alaska,” he said.

Brandon continues to be filled with spiritual purpose, yet he questioned what the Lord had for him beyond the military.

“When you serve in the military, you wake up every day with something to do and a mission,” Brandon said. “Then it’s all taken away from you. It leaves a huge hole; it leaves an unfortunate void.”

When he heard of Team Patriot at the annual Operation Heal Our Patriots reunion in March 2019, he knew immediately that it was something that he wanted to be a part of—something that could once again give him purpose.

“Looking back, everything that God has put in my path since the day I joined the military has been to mold me and shape me into what He has,” Brandon said. “We all come from different walks of life, we’re all different in our own ways, we all have our own quirks, but at the end of the day, all that matters to us is that we’re Christians and that we wore the uniform.”

“I found God—truly found Him—in Alaska.”

In August 2019, Brandon and other Team Patriot veterans helped rebuild the Rockport, Texas, home of Manuel Vega, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War and as a helicopter engineer for more than 20 years. Samaritan’s Purse also helped rebuild his daughter’s home after a tree fell into the room where Manuel and his family were seeking shelter from Hurricane Harvey.

As a U.S. Army veteran himself, Brandon was honored to be able to serve Manuel and thank him for his service.

A Heart to Serve

U.S. Army Specialist Aaron Cardinal and his wife Deanna were overwhelmed with the love and joy they experienced during their time in Alaska through Operation Heal Our Patriots.

Army Specialist Aaron Cardinal is thankful that God led him to Team Patriot. "Getting to serve with Team Patriot is a different light in my life," he said.

Army Specialist Aaron Cardinal is thankful that God led him to Team Patriot.

“It wasn’t a fake love—it was the love that you hear about in the Bible,” Aaron said. “It truly was a shock from everything I’ve ever done and everything I’ve ever been. I never felt love like that from literal strangers.”

The couple needed reconciliation in their marriage after Aaron’s injuries caused them to drift apart. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and degenerative disk disease after his military vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device.

Operation Heal Our Patriots allowed the couple to physically and emotionally heal. For Aaron, the week in 2015 helped him to open his heart to the Lord.

“At the time that I signed up for OHOP [Operation Heal Our Patriots] I was at one of the darkest points in my life. I really didn’t pray or go to church anymore,” Aaron said. “I had faith but I was distant. Operation Heal Our Patriots allowed me to come back to God.”

Now, Aaron wants to show others the same love he experienced in Alaska.

Teams always begin their work day with prayer.

Teams always begin their work day with prayer.

“Operation Heal Our Patriots came to me at a big turning point in my life and it opened my heart to God, to life, and I just want to give back in some way to help Samaritan’s Purse and to serve in Jesus’ Name,” Aaron said. “When Team Patriot became available to us, I just had to sign up.”

Aaron deployed with Brandon this August with the first group of Team Patriot veterans, who helped families recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

“Getting to serve with Team Patriot is a different light in my life. I spent most of my adult life learning how to do harm, to hurt, and how to shut life out,” Aaron said.

“Serving with Team Patriot is the exact opposite—you’re working in Jesus’ Name and you’re working in love,” he said of his time volunteering as part of the Samaritan’s Purse home rebuild and repair program in Rockport and Pearland, Texas. “It’s beautiful and it’s an amazing experience.”

U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of disaster relief volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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