Darryl Charles wasn't sure if the program offered by Homes for Our Troops was for him.
"I guess in the beginning I was being stubborn," Charles said in a phone interview. "I thought it was a great organization, but I didn't think I would be suitable for it. I felt that there were others who would benefit more from receiving one of these homes."
It wasn't until a friend, another recipient of one of the specially adapted custom Homes for Our Troops homes, convinced him otherwise that he joined.
"I started with John Schumacher, he was also a recipient of one of these homes," Charles said. "He broke it down for me and gave me a little talk about it and what they do.
"I was just starting a family around this time and he explained to me that what we went through was traumatic and I need to think about my future, where I would be 40 years down the line. How much an adaptive home would help me out. Even just taking care of my son and give my wife peace of mind, knowing that I could operate in our home without her assistance. She wouldn't have to feel anxious every time she left me alone or left me alone with our child."
On Oct. 17, 2011, during his second deployment, United States Marine Corps Corporal Charles, a mortarman, was conducting a patrol with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
Cpl Charles sustained severe damage to both legs and internal injuries as a result of the blast. Since then, he endured numerous surgeries for three years while being treated at Walter Reed and Balboa medical centers. The damage to his right leg was so severe, doctors decided to amputate his leg above the knee.
Today, Charles continues to work with a trainer to improve his gait and balance, and he is currently planning to have ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee.
Now medically retired, Darryl and his wife, Desiree, and son Kingsley, will be moving into a new specially-adapted home in Fallbrook, currently being built by longtime Homes for Our Troops partner Youngren Construction.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Homes for Our Troops has been unable to host some of the groundbreaking and grand opening events during the building process.
Charles said he is looking forward to the home and knows it will make a significant difference in his family's life. When asked how it would help, he said the simple improvements will be key.
"Mainly just daily activities," he said. "One of the big biggest benefits would be having a single-story home. Right now, I'm staying with my mother-in-law who has a two-story house. All the restrooms are upstairs. It's kind of difficult to navigate.
"Before we lived here, we lived in an apartment where my wheelchair wouldn't make it into the shower room and I was having surgeries so I was kind of confined to my chair, had to slide across the bathroom floor for the toilet or reach the shower."
It will afford him the opportunity to concentrate more on his job and his training for a degree in information technology from National University in San Diego.
He is currently listed as a DOD civilian with the Navy.
"I just recently, back in September, gained employment doing IT work for the Navy through their Wounded Warrior program," Charles said. "I plan on doing that for 25 years, finish out my government contract, and hopefully be in a good position to retire."
Soon, those 25 years, maybe more, will be spent in Fallbrook, he hopes, a community he knew a little bit about having visited more recently and a few times as a high school athlete in Rancho Bernardo.
"We've been going up there frequently and going into some of the local stores and trying to get a lay of the land," Charles said, again mentioning his young son. "And so far, we've enjoyed it. We're really excited to be able to have somewhere to plant roots and he can go through his whole schooling in one area."
As for how it's been working with Homes for Our Troops, Charles was nothing but complimentary.
"It's been great, it's a wonderful organization," he said. "It's really close-knit, out of all the organizations I've been a part of, this one definitely feels more like a family. Everyone who works there really cares and all the veterans are there for one another. Most of the guys who I am familiar with from the hospital have been a recipient of the homes and they look out for one another. It's great."
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected].