The community of Escondido embraced retired Marine Sgt. Toran Gaal at a kick-off event held at the Park Avenue Community Center.
Gaal who is a double amputee, has become over the years a brother to the Escondido Police Department, a mentor to local children and a friend to many.
On Saturday, Feb. 6, hundreds of supporters for Gaal helped the national nonprofit organization, Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), kick off the building of a new home for the veteran. The Community Center was overflowing, including members of the Escondido Police Department, veterans, and other wounded warriors.
“I never had the opportunity to live in an actual community and become fully involved in a community until I came to Escondido,” said Gaal. “I am thrilled to have a house be built here that we can call home.”
Gaal’s journey began on June 26, 2011, when he was on his third deployment serving with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan. An improvised explosive device (IED) detonated beneath him and the blast resulted in the loss of both legs and a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).
After the attack, people nicknamed Gaal as the “Unstoppable.” While spending months learning how to talk again, Gaal was determined to walk. His type of amputation is unique and extremely rare. Having lost his leg, hip, and part of his pelvis on one side and his leg above the knee on the other side, he was told that his life would be spent in a wheelchair.
Since his accident Gaal has been doing marathons, CrossFit, competitions, surfing and coaching basketball.
In the summer of 2015, he hand-cycled across the country to raise money and awareness about fellow injured veterans.
The home being built for Gaal in neighboring Valley Center will help him continue his journey of inspiring others by allowing him to be comfortable and safe in his own home.
The specially fitted house will feature more than 40 major special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower, and kitchen amenities that include pull- down shelving and lowered countertops. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, including navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds, riding on carpets, or reaching for cabinets that are too high.
“I face many challenges within my house. I cannot wait to move in,” said Gaal. “These homes are a place where we wounded veterans can feel comfortable and safe and not worry about cooking or getting something from a shelf.”
All costs for the home will be covered by Homes for Our Troops and its network of donors, supporters and corporate partners.
President/CEO of Homes for Our Troops Tim McHale says it’s an honor and privilege to serve the veterans who have sacrificed for our freedom and independence. “We at Homes for Our Troops do not believe giving a home to a severely injured veteran is charity. We believe it is a moral obligation to our society. They fought to protect our freedom and independence, and we are now giving them back some freedom and independence by building them a specially adapted home.”
Read more about Gaal at www.hfotusa.org/gaal.