Friday, July 04, 2008

Soldiers like Dave!

Do you know a soldier who returned from the war in Iraq?

We do…he’s our next-door neighbor!

A soldier who enlisted at the age of 18, Dave is now just 23 years old. But he has seen more in his short life than any of us can possibly imagine.

When he first moved in, the neighbors “talked”—as neighbors sometimes do! Dave was quiet, kept to himself, rarely talked, and only spoke when getting the mail or tending to his garden. He was recovering from severe leg injuries that almost required amputation of his left leg. And while at Walter Reed Naval Hospital when the news was given that he would most surely lose his leg, his young wife left him. She didn’t want to be married to a “cripple.”

Dave was devastated. Not only had he served two tours of duty in Iraq, saw too many of his fellow soldiers die in combat, but now he was fighting for his own life, and—yet—his wife still wanted a divorce.

In the spring of this year, my husband walked over to Dave’s house and asked about some shrubs that he had just planted. It was the beginning of a growing friendship. Every day, Mark watched as Dave transformed the front and backyard of his home into “Paradise Lost.” He put in waterfalls, ponds, two decks, a fire pit, and totally transformed the corner lot. Then he set out to revitalize the neighborhood: he landscaped his neighbor’s yard, landscaped our front yard, the corner lot, and built another deck for a friend. Now when you turn the corner to our street, it looks like “Better Homes and Gardens.”

Dave grew up with gardening. His father owns one of the largest landscaping companies in the county. But when asked why he does what he does for free. He responds, “There’s something about seeing beauty come to life.”

Out of the ashes of his life—horrors unspeakable—this soldier stands as a proud beacon to our freedom. The “unknown soldier” is a welcome part of our neighborhood: the rumors have FINALLY stopped. Sure, there are still some folks who don’t accept Dave, but that’s their loss and our gain!

Dave was instrumental in my hubby’s recovery from his broken hip: Everyday he brought over his beloved lab, Sage, as a therapy dog; took Mark fishing in celebration of his “move” from the walker to the cane; invited us over for barbecues and most importantly, gave us a beautiful view out our front window—a reminder of what God can do in all of our lives…"trading ashes for roses."

On this Fourth of July, we will spend the afternoon in Dave’s tranquil backyard, grilling steaks, and then go to a nearby farm to have our own private fireworks display in celebration of the freedom we all enjoy because of soldiers like Dave!

Enjoy some beauty from our garden, thanks to Dave!

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Flea said...

Thank you so much for sharing Dave's story. I'm so glad God has blessed Dave and Mark with the gift of each other's friendship.

Lonely said...


It was so good to get the rest of the story of Dave, Mark told me a bit when I was there several weeks ago.

It is so wonderful when someone will give of there time to help others, because they enjoy giving more than receiving. Dave has given to "Our Country," and now on a more personal note, he gives to his neighbors, as "Jesus" gave to us.

"May God" continue to bless the three of you in your neighborhood.

May God's Angels Surround You As Well,

Your Friend,


Connie Pombo said...


I'll take pictures of our front yard that Dave landscaped. After all the destruction he has seen in his short life, it gives him peace to make things beautiful again.

Our own personal fireworks display went on for three hours. I've never been that up close and personal to rockets firing off. The noise was deafening. Dave said, "Oh, that's not loud..." Yikes! All our soldiers must have hearing loss.


Connie Pombo said...

Hey Terry,

Great to see you here! We're looking forward to your next visit with us.

Mark can tell you about his pond fishing with Dave, and the ones that got away!


Tracy Ruckman said...

Beautiful story, Connie. Dave moving next door to you is definitely God's handiwork - such a benefit for you all.

Please thank Dave for us - for sacrificing so much for us. May God bless him abundantly for his efforts.

Uh - I think I included some em dashes. They're my weakness - I had to exchange exclamations marks for SOMETHING! :-)

Love ya!

Connie Pombo said...

LOL :) You gotta love those em-dashes! They're even better when served alongside exclamation marks (which I can really go crazy over too!).

The fireworks that Dave put on for us was simply amazing. And guess who forgot her camera?!?! Drat!

I asked Dave if we could do it again and he said, "Oh, sure, we're just getting started!"


Greg C said...

Thanks Connie for such a wonderful post and give my thanks to Dave. Did he actually lose his leg and did his wife leave him. She should be ashamed for even thinking it.

Saturday, at the market there were anti-war and anti-America protestors. My son wanted to spit on them when they passed but I told him not to lower himself down to their level. They reminded me of 50 year old hippies. I hate the fact that people like Dave sacrafice for people like that.

I have traveled to other countries and see people living in cardboard boxes, with no running water and that is the norm. I have seen dead people laying on the street with others walking around them and no one caring. People who don't like America should go to these places and see how they like it there. Ok, enough preaching. Thanks for a wonderful post.

Connie Pombo said...

Thanks, Greg, for your comments.

I never realized what these young "boys" have to endure when they come back to the states. Not only are they dealing with physical and emotional sequelae, but relationships have changed and the backlash they get from the public is horrible. I realize there is a lot of controversy over this war, but these "Marines" are proud of how they have served and sacrificed.

Yes, his wife did divorce him. And he didn't lose his leg, but he suffers terribly daily. He had 15 surgeries in total to salvage his leg, but it was not without a great sacrifice!

I will thank him for you, Greg!

God bless you!

Susan Kelly Skitt said...

Wow Connie, that Dave sounds like a gem. It's so sad to hear how selfish people like his wife, I guess now ex-wife can be. Something similar happened to my brother-in-law - one of the greatest guys you'd ever want to meet. His wife left him and he had to raise their two children on his own and run his own full-time construction business. The kids are now in college and doing wonderfully... Praise God that He can make beauty from ashes!

Like Greg said, thank Dave for me. I tell my sons, "These men are risking their lives to protect us."

My youngest son says he wants to be an Engineer in the Army and the Navy. (He's six-years-old right now.)

I was so sad to see that so few people clapped at our local 4th of July parade for our war veterans. My grandfather served in WWII and we're so proud of him for all he sacrificed. My Nanna had to raise my dad alone for many years when my dad was just a little boy. And what those soldiers go through? I can't even imagine. I clapped long and hard at that parade and waved and yelled out, "Thank you for protecting us!"

Connie Pombo said...

You know what, Susan? I'm so thankful for the opportunity to know someone like Dave. He is wise behind his years...he even likes to hang out with "old" folks like us. :)

He said when he returned from Iraq, "kids" his own age wanted to party; he didn't know how to do that! He had to grow up so fast over there. When you talk to him you think he's in his late 40's or 50's.

He wanted to make the Marines his life, but due to the extensive nature of his injuries it's simply not possible. He got 1600 on his SAT's and could have done anything with his life, but he chose the military as a career and continues to serve his country proudly in the Reserves.

Thank you, Susan, for standing up and clapping at the parade. Dave was recently in a parade and he said it was so depressing...only the veterans saluted him. So very sad.