Crowds make Joshua Murphy nervous.
So nervous, it was debilitating.
“For the first year after coming back from combat, I could barely leave the house. With the flashbacks and nightmares. I still haven’t slept a full night’s sleep because of the nightmares,” Murphy said.
Murphy served in Iraq for 14 months. He and his wife Windie are the first family to be selected for the Santa Clarita Valley Homes for Heroes program sponsored by The Gas Company and KHTS AM 1220.
As an Army soldier, Joshua worked security on what is now known as Joint Base Balad in Iraq. He and his team performed perimeter security and monitored entry patrol points.
“The biggest fear was that we had constant mortars and indirect fire,” Joshua said.
Windie reminds her husband to explain about the children.
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“Remember how they used to use the children to come up to you and so you would be caught off guard? You think it’s just a child and it’s not really just a child,” said Windie.
Where he was stationed was in the middle of farm land with a lot of local Iraqi farmers. There would also be a lot of children.
“The insurgents would use the children to crowd towards our gate and crowd towards our tower. And sometimes they would give the children explosives or a backpack with something harmful,” said Joshua.
Sometimes the backpacks would be empty -- a way of testing the soldier’s resolve. Murphy says they knew American soldiers would never shoot children and the insurgents would use that to their advantage.
“They would use the children as a shield so that we wouldn’t shoot at them while they buried IEDs in the road ahead,” Joshua said.
The former army Specialist says he’s still haunted by the use and abuse of children. His flashbacks are so intense he’ll sometimes blackout.
Upon awakening he’ll find himself in the yard or his neighbor’s yard and not know how he got there.
For Joshua it wasn’t only the potential of danger, but also the manifestation of physical harm.
Joshua Murphy was struck by a mortar while on duty in the guard tower. His injuries left him no longer capable of carrying his flak vest and ruck sack.
Murphy has been officially rated with back issues and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Physically he has difficulty bending over in the shower long enough to wash his legs and feet. The PTSD has left him with feelings of panic and blackouts.
“You can see clearly what they dedicated for us and what they gave up,” said Kim Cherney, who manages the Newhall Ranch Road Home Depot.
SCV Homes for Heroes is partnering with Home Depot.
“I really felt it in my heart when I talked to him. And that’s really what our company is all about, it’s about giving back, make sure we help people and help our communities,” Cherney said.
Nationwide Home Depot will be spending $30 million for their 2011 Celebrations of Service program focusing on veterans and seniors.
As part of the SCV Homes for Heroes “Brush with Kindness” phase, Home Depot will be installing safety handles in the new tub enclosure for Joshua.
They will also be providing new appliances, rebuilding the counter tops, putting in a new sink and faucet, a new heating and air-conditioning system, among other fixes.
On the outside, Home Depot will be putting in new sod and clearing the hillside of brush -- a particular benefit for the Murphy’s Husky-Shepherd mix, Princess.
The Gas Company has been a past sponsor of the Brush with Kindness program, including offering employee volunteers and funding to help a local Newhall family rebuild their lives following the October 2007 wildfires.
Mike Mizrahi, Regional Public Affairs Manager of the Northern Region of Southern California Gas Company, is on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity Santa Clarita/ San Fernando Affiliate.
He says being involved in the Santa Clarita community is part of The Gas Company’s corporate culture.
“The idea of opening up the arms of a community to veterans that are returning from the foreign wars just feels good to my company. So the idea of marrying what we’re doing with Habitat with serving the veterans of Santa Clarita was just perfect match for us,” said Mizrahi.
The SCV Homes For Heroes community event is planned for November 5. That’s when scores of volunteers from The Gas Company, Home Depot, KHTS and local residents will descend upon the Murphy home to repair and beautify their home.
Carl Goldman, KHTS-AM radio co-owner, who along with his wife Jeri Seratti Goldman head the SCV Homes for Heroes advisory board.
“We have our first event ready to roll on November 5, and we’re going to make this a community event that will become an annual event on the Saturday before Veterans Day,” Goldman said.
The SCV Homes for Heroes is a three-phase program:
A Brush With Kindness -- Sponsored by Southern California Gas Company, this program brings together donated materials, volunteers, and resources to help veterans who need repairs or modifications on their existing homes.
Neighborhood Revitalization -- Working with partners and the City of Santa Clarita, this phase will focus on renovating foreclosed properties in redevelopment areas selected by the city for veteran families to purchase. Veterans will work alongside volunteers and builders to rehab their home as well as take advantage of financial and other educational workshops. Entire neighborhoods will be transformed through additional Brush With Kindness efforts.
Veteran “Enriched” Neighborhood -- This phase, which will launch at a later date, will offer life skills to veterans and their families to become self-sufficient. The Enriched Neighborhood model brings social and educational services into a neighborhood. The goal is to build a veteran-specific community in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Goldman says SCV Homes for Heroes is generating strong interest, with several civic, business and community leaders.
"We've been talking to a lot of people about the program and the support has been overwhelming -- everyone wants to know what they can do to help," he adds, noting planned activities include fundraising and seeking contributors from the community.
Joshua and Windie Murphy said they were reluctant to accept help at first. Their inclination is to assist others, not receive help.
“We are humbled by it and we are very thankful. I’m very appreciative of the service that my husband’s done and I just feel like I want to help others. And I’m just grateful for what Homes for Heroes is offering us and Habitat for Humanity. I think it’s just amazing for our community,” said Windie.
For more information about SCV Homes for Heroes, go to www.HabitatSCV.org , or call (818) 884-8808.