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Having grown up in a military family, U.S. Army Spc. Heath Howes always knew he would follow in the footsteps of his family members. On January 25, 2011, Howes traveled to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, to begin Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training to join the Field Artillery as a Cannon Crewmember. Following training, Howes received orders that he would be stationed at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas. Eager to begin the next chapter of his life, Howes deployed to Afghanistan a few months later.
As he adjusted to military life abroad, Howes relied heavily on his faith to carry him through the tough days. Several months into his deployment, his combat outpost was attacked by a suicide bomber carrying over 1,200 pounds of explosives. Even though his unit was unharmed, Howes considers that day one of the longest of his deployment. On June 27, 2012, his truck was hit by a 200-pound IED (improvised explosive device) during a vehicle patrol. The driver, Howes’ best friend, and soldier sitting across from Howes were immediately killed, while Howes and his captain sustained life-threatening injuries. To this day, he cannot recall anything that happened following the explosion.
Howes’ injuries include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a spinal burst, fractured ribs, nerve damage in his left leg, severe right ankle fracture, collapsed lung and more. He was honorably discharged in January 2014. His wife, Savannah, serves as his primary caretaker, driving him to the nearest VA facility that is two and a half hours away and helping him in his wheelchair when necessary. Although recovery is a long process, Howes remains determined to continue healing physically, mentally and spiritually. In recognition of his courageous military service, Howes had been honored with numerous awards, including a Purple Heart, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two stars, two Combat Action Badges, an Army Commendation Medal and NATO Medal.
Since Howes is currently unable to work, he spends his time coaching his sons’ T-ball and baseball teams, giving him a sense of purpose. His goal is to teach the young boys hard work, discipline and sportsmanship. As Howes continues to receive rehabilitative care, his wife hopes to eventually return to pharmacy training. Howes and his wife are also focused on becoming debt free by the end of the year, which will help them as they plan their move to St. Louis, Missouri, to be closer to a VA facility.
Operation FINALLY HOME and Hibbs Homes will join together to provide Spc. Heath Howes and his family with a custom, mortgage-free home in the St. Louis area.