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Team Depot spruces up veteran's home
A group of volunteers came together Thursday to improve the home of James Eagleman, a disabled veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who was wounded in Iraq.
About 15 volunteers with Team Depot, a group organized by the Home Depot Foundation that includes Home Depot employees and other Yuma-area residents, made several improvements to his home to improve the quality of his life.
“I would like to thank Home Depot from the bottom of my heart for making this project a possibility for us,” said Eagleman, who lives with his wife and a 4-year-old adopted son.
At the age of 19, Eagleman enlisted in the USMC and became an M1 Abrams main battle tank mechanic.
In the summer of 2004, he found himself in the middle of the Battle of Najaf in Iraq. He was serving with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which took over responsibility of An Najaf, a city located about 100 miles south of Baghdad, on July 31.
On Aug. 2, the Mahdi Army began exchanging gunfire with the Marines. By Aug. 5, a major conflict had begun in and around the area of the Wadi-us-Salaam, a vast cemetery of about 7 square miles. The battle would last until Aug. 27, and in the process, Eagleman was seriously wounded by an improvised explosives device.
“I suffered a traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder and many other neurological problems due to the IED attack that include seizure disorders (and) memory loss,” he said.
After he was wounded, Eagleman was “in and out of many hospitals until June of 2010 when I was medically retired from the Wounded Warrior Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif.”
He now lives in a home in Yuma but found it difficult to get around because of his injuries. “Oftentimes I need assistance with a walker or a cane walking through the house, and with carpeting I can't do that.”
He decided to replace the carpet in his dining and living rooms with wood flooring and went to Home Depot to purchase what he needed. Once there, he met Team Depot captain Amberlee Cuaresma, who listened to his story and offered the services of her group of volunteers.
“We are making James' home more accessible to him,” she said Thursday as her team worked around her, cutting wood and drilling screws with power tools.
“We are actually putting wood flooring throughout the house and will also be installing lighting for him.”
In addition to other home improvements, the team repaired a gazebo covering the Jacuzzi in Eagleman's backyard. He uses the hot tub to relieve some of the symptoms associated with his injuries.
“He told us one of the places he likes to go out and relax is in the Jacuzzi,” Cuaresma said. “We saw it needed some structural help and cosmetic fixing, so we are repairing that.”
The volunteers even added a flower garden next to the hot tub.
“We saw that there was just dirt there, so we decided to give him some flowers just to make it pretty and to have a nice place to go out and enjoy,” Cuaresma said.
“It makes them feel great,” she said of the volunteers. “The associates love to get out into the community. We are really excited to do this, and we look forward to doing many more projects in the future.”
Eagleman encourages other disabled veterans in the area to contact Team Depot if they need basic home repairs that they cannot afford.
“They are dedicated individuals who stated it is not about the money — more about reaching out to help disabled veterans such as myself, and giving back,” he said. “They may be able to assist them whatever needs they have. It doesn't matter if they are young or old.”
During the past five years, the Home Depot Foundation has committed $80 million to improve the homes of military veterans throughout the nation. For more information, go to www.homedepotfoundation.org.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.