June 27, 2007
GROVETOWN, Ga.---The community is coming together to help a local hero in his time of need.
Last night we told you how PFC Anibal Santiago went from fighting on the front lines to fighting to save his Grovetown home from foreclosure. He's been struggling to make ends meet, living off of a $1200 a month disability check.
So far, the Pentagon reports 27,691 Americans have been wounded in the war on terror. Of those wounded, 582 are amputees. And according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1800 US troops are now suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Santiago is one of those.
Neurologists worry that hundreds of thousands more, at least 30 percent of the troops who've engaged in active combat for four months or longer in Iraq and Afghanistan, are at risk of potentially disabling neurological disorders from the blast waves of IEDs and mortars.
After our story aired, we received numerous phone calls from the community about helping Santiago.
Tonight we went back to Santiago's home with one gentleman who has a plan to help get the war veteran back on track.
Yesterday, Santiago was consumed with worry over losing the home that had been a present for his son Luis.
"I was scared," he told us then, "and I prayed, and I cried."
Tonight, he was finally able to smile.
Santiago was in danger of losing his Grovetown home to foreclosure, but fate--and local businessman George Harrison--stepped in to stop that from happening.
"It's an honor to meet you," Harrison, owner of the Boll Weevil and Beamie's restaurants, told Santiago tonight. "We want to just let you know that we really appreciate it...and that's the reason I'm here."
Harrison says that after seeing our story he couldn't believe that this was the welcome our service members were receiving coming home from war.
"And I said, 'We need to do something about it,'" he said.
And he did. Since Santiago is a disabled veteran, he's due certain benefits. Right now he's only allowed 80 percent of his entitlements, which amounts to about $1200 a month. Harrison's sister is an attorney who specializes in disability issues and plans to help Santiago get all of the benefits he deserves.
"I think that his home can be saved, and we're going to make sure that he doesn't lose it," Harrison said. "They're going to sort through the benefits and see if they can't come up with what he needs to do to be able to keep his home. In the meantime we've raised the money to make sure we can buy him some time and he doesn't lose his home."
Harrison says helping people like Santiago is a small price to pay and it's just a small act of kindness. He says it's far from comparable to the job that our service members have done for all Americans.
"I think that he's grateful that we came out here, yet he's the one that has done the wonderful thing," Harrison said. "Here are people who have gone and made this incredible sacrifice so that we can have our way of life...and then they come back, and what they had hoped for and dreamed for is not going to be available to them."
"We ought to show them that we really care and really appreciate what they've done and they've done an amazing thing," he went on. "I would love to see our community rally behind our soldiers...all of them."
In addition to Mr. Harrison, there were other calls from folks wanting to help. We took a call earlier today from woman in Alabama who saw the story on our website and offered information about other organizations who can help disabled veterans.
insurance.va.gov is a very helpful website where you can find information on things like life insurance benefits, education, home loans, pharmacy benefits, and other issues that may help veterans coming home to their families.
And there are other places to find help if you need it. Veterans of Foreign Wars, Southern Baptist Association, and Catholic Social Services are also willing to help out soldiers who need it when they come back home.
News 12's Laurie Ott contributed to this report.
There is a topic about the treatment our wounded veterans receive when they return home up on our News Blog.