Aaron Boyle, 30, wheels his chair into the kitchen and begins to unload the dishwasher, but his chair gets in his wife’s way as he puts an armful of dishes away. The chair often gets stymied and knocks into the counter or cupboards behind him.
He helps bathe his kids, but their bathroom is so small that he makes a four-point turn just to help them wash.
Boyle approaches the laundry room and squeezes in. He grabs a load of laundry with his hand and somehow backs his chair out with a load piled high.
These are just a few of the scenarios that Boyle faces on a daily basis in his current house after losing his arm and leg while serving overseas in the U.S. Army.
“I did one deployment in Iraq from ‘08 to ‘09, and I did a deployment in 2010 with the same unit from Colorado,” Boyle said. “That’s where I stepped on the land mine.”
On Sept. 21, 2010, in Afghanistan — with B Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division — he suffered the loss of his right arm and right leg, with some severe damage to his left leg.
Because of the barriers he faces in the layout of his home, Boyle applied to an organization called Homes for Our Troops, which builds homes that meet the needs of qualified U.S. veterans.
“The current barriers in this home that don’t meet me and my wife’s needs would definitely have to be the laundry room. I can’t turn around. I can’t open the dryer. I have to get out of my wheelchair to get to the washing machine. Me and my wife can’t be in the kitchen together at the same time because my wheelchair is in the way.
“And then the spare bathroom is a big point because that’s where my kids take a bath and I like to help out and be able to get them out if something happened, but I can’t turn around. I hit the toilet, or I hit the wall, or I hit the door or I hit the counter. So it’s just tough when you have obstacles in the way that make everything that you want to succeed in limited.”
After a detailed application process, Homes for Our Troops accepted Boyle into its program and let him choose where he would like to live, which for him was the Yelm area.
They purchased him a plot of land and will be building him a new home this year, mortgage free.
Homes for Our Troops is a donation-based organization that relies on its corporate sponsors and private donations to do what it does for so many disabled veterans.
It uses 90 cents of every dollar that is donated to actually build the houses.
While volunteers are not needed for the entire building process, there will be a volunteer day for Boyle’s home later this year.
Also, there will be a community kickoff for Boyle at 10 a.m. (check-in at 9:30 a.m.) Saturday, May 11, at New Life Christian Center, 13036 Morris Road S.E., Yelm. Visit www.hfotusa.org/building-homes/veterans/boyle/ to RSVP to this event, which is designed for community members to get to know Boyle and the program that is propping him up.
Boyle said since 2004, Homes for our Troops has built about 270 houses that meet veterans’ needs.
The new house will feature a roll-in shower, pull-down racks in the cabinets and a wider floor plan that includes larger bathrooms, doorways, hallways, kitchen space, etc.
“To be able to take that load off my wife is the biggest thing I’m looking forward to in the new house,” Boyle said. “My wife goes at 24 miles an hour in her own head, and it would just be nice to do some cooking, the laundry and not feel stressed about it.”
Now that Boyle’s home worries are coming to a close, he will be able to look fully to the future.
“I used to want to be a physical fitness trainer, but I ended up getting hurt, “ Boyle said. “So what I decided I might do is become a motivational speaker. I’ve had multiple people tell me that it would be a great choice for jobs just because of the way I can just talk about my injury. It’s doesn’t phase me, like some people can get wrapped around in their own head.”
He said you can’t let your injury define who you are for the negative, because it will get in your head and all you will see is what you can’t do.
“The moment that you let your injury defeat you, is the moment you become another statistic….Hold on to the joys of what you have — what you want to accomplish. Yeah, your path has changed, but you can still reach it. It may just take different lengths of time instead of the direct route that you had planned.”
Boyle attributed much of his positive outlook to his wife who he said kicks him in the butt and keeps him moving forward, reminding him of who he really is.
“My injury defines me because it made me into the better man I am today,” he said.