By Karissa Blackburn
Sometimes even heroes need help.
That was the sentiment behind a ceremony held at 11 a.m. on Aug. 25 at the Beirut Memorial in Jacksonville, where United States Congressman Walter Jones, R-N.C., joined representatives of the North Carolina Heroes Fund and Purple Heart Homes, as well as N.C. Director of Veterans Affairs Ilario Pantano, to present Ginger Lay with a check totaling the value of some recently completed repairs needed at her family’s home.
Lay is the widow of Cpl. Stephen Lay who served in the United States Marine Corps; his service included two terms in Iraq. Along with his wife, Cpl. Lay left behind his three young daughters, all under the age of 4.
“Today we helped a family, the wife of a Marine who, because of the stress of PTSD, took his own life,” Jones, an N.C. Heroes board member, said. “What the N.C. Heroes fund was able to do, knowing that she had residential needs and repairs, they were able to give her a grant to help her and her family fix the problem with her house.”
The nonprofit organizations teamed up with local contractor Curtis Priest from the New Bern area to help Lay with the needed renovations. Priest worked with the family and the organizations to provide services at a discounted price.
“She submitted an application to our N.C. Heroes Fund, and we were able to look at the application and see that it was a much broader requirement than we normally would provide,” David Hayden, chairman of the N.C. Heroes Fund said. “So we solicited the help of other organizations like Purple Heart Homes, Semper Fi Fund, and a private contactor from New Bern ... who graciously gave of his time and energy and gave us a very low budgeted estimate that allowed us to do a lot of work to her house. We replaced her floors, replaced doors and dealt with some mold issues.”
Lay said she is grateful for the help.
“They have helped me tremendously with my kids, and with my house,” Lay said. “There was a lot of water damage and mold. It was a lot of money that I could not afford, especially after what just happened. And it helped me to know that my daughters’ health was better.”
Military families often face financial and emotional hardship after serving the country. Organizations like the N.C. Heroes Fund are in place to help North Carolina veterans who have recently been discharged from the military and are readjusting to civilian life.
“These programs are absolutely critical,” Jones said. “It’s too easy for the American people to forget those who have given too much during wartime. When they come home, many of them, as her husband did, have issues with PTSD and TBI…This is a prime example of why the NC Heroes fund has done such critical work to remember and not to forget.”
Within its three years, the organization has worked with many veteran families to help alleviate the stresses they face. Hayden says that the organization helps between 30 and 40 veterans a year on average.“The federal government can’t help as much as they need to, so it’s up to private citizens to step up and help,” Hayden said. “I’m a veteran, a veteran of Afghanistan, and this is what little I can do. I always tell people it’s the difference between doing something successful and doing something significant. This is significant to that woman and her children, and to anyone else who can go to our website, ncheroes.org, and complete an application.”
Lay said she hopes that her story will send a message of hope to other families who are struggling with similar stories by knowing that the help is out there.
“The courage to stand up for other wives that are out there,” Lay said. “It means a lot. If anyone ever wanted to talk to me, I’m here. I’ve been through it.”
Jones said that groups like NC Heroes are important because they are doing “God’s work.”“I know these funds have to be supported because they’re doing so much good,” Jones said. “With the growing debt of our nation, I think the federal government is going to be able to do less and less, so that’s why programs like these are important.”
According to Hayden, nearly 90 cents of every dollar raised by the nonprofit North Carolina Heroes Fund goes directly toward fulfilling its mission of helping the state’s veterans and their families overcome temporary financial hardships.
For more information about nonprofit organizations that help veterans, visit nc4vets.com/guide.
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