Fifteen years ago, Vainuupo Avegalio, or “AV” as he likes to be called, left the small Samoan Islands village he called home to join the U.S. Army.
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He served in the military for 12 years before being honorably discharged due to the post traumatic stress disorder he developed in combat.
After retiring from the Army, AV found that channeling his pain and trauma into art was incredibly healing. He became an amateur poet and visual artist who performs readings and holds workshops all around the U.S.
Since then, he has made it his life’s work to use art therapy to help first responders, other veterans with PTSD, at-risk youth, current and former prison inmates, and others who are experiencing mental illness.
AV has thrown his whole self into giving back, even using his Army pension to support those whom he feels need help more than he does. Consequently, he had no home to call his own, opting to sleep in his car as he traveled from one event to the next.
All of that changed recently when a nonprofit called HeroHomes intervened to give him a leg up. HeroHomes was established to build houses for deserving veterans and their families. Constructing a home for AV was their fourth project, and they were absolutely thrilled to give him a comfortable place to live after all he has done to help others!
Local contractors and businesses in Loudoun, Virginia, offered up their time and services for free to support AV, and in the end, all of the building costs and furnishings were covered by donations.
HeroHomes recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome AV to his beautiful new ranch home. The veteran plans to use his house to further his mission by transforming the basement into an art studio, where he can continue processing his own grief and trauma.
“Military life was both a blessing and a curse,” he explained.
It took me to places I could have only dreamed of growing up on the Samoan Islands. I witnessed horror, destruction, merciless acts of inhumanity. I saw acts of gallantry and heroism. I sent and welcomed many good friends home. I was shot at by enemies. I was spit on by the people we fought to protect. Through 12 years of service and even today, a battle deep within me grew stronger with each breath and every thought, a battle with myself.
Even when he was down-and-out, AV always found a way to help others. He’s a true hero who is so deserving of this incredible gift!
Share this story to welcome AV to his new home.
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