Purple Heart Homes co-founder vows to continue mission of helping veterans
PHOTO: Purple Heart Homes Co-Founder John Gallina discusses his plans for the future on Tuesday at Richard's Coffee House in Mooresville.
BY MIKE FUHRMAN
MOORESVILLE — John Gallina had his future all mapped out when he went to bed on Sunday, Feb. 11.
He and his wife had just learned they were expecting their fourth child, the nonprofit he co-founded with his war buddy Dale Beatty was approaching its 10th anniversary, and Gallina was preparing to make a run for a seat in the N.C. Senate.
The following morning, while on the way to a campaign meeting, Gallina learned the devastating news that Beatty, who was 39, had died suddenly from what was later diagnosed as a double pulmonary embolism.
Over the next two weeks Gallina re-evaluated everything.
On Tuesday morning he announced that he had decided to bow out of the Senate race so he can focus his time and energy on helping the Beatty family and his own. He will also remain involved in the day-to-day operations of Purple Heart Homes while the nonprofit's board works on a long-term reorganization plan.
The nonprofit founded by Beatty and Gallina has been recognized nationally for the housing solutions it provides for service-connected disabled veterans.
"We needed to take a couple of weeks," Gallina told a group of reporters who gathered Richard's Coffee Shop, a popular gathering place for veterans, on Tuesday morning. "We've been able to find a lot of peace, a lot of healing."
The Future of Purple Heart Homes
Beatty's widow, Belinda, also spoke briefly at the news conference, expressing her appreciation for the community's support and vowing to continue the work of helping veterans.
"The past two weeks everybody has shown us so much love and support, and we are honored to have loved and known such a great man, a hero to all, a father, a husband, son, brother and friend.
"He is missed everyday, but his legacy lives on and we are tremendously grateful for everyone's kindness and generosity. Our lives are forever changed, but Dale worked too hard for what he believed to let his dream go for nothing," she continued.
"I will continue to pay it forward and support his work, that he worked so hard to achieve. Thank you all for everything from the bottom of our hearts."
The nonprofit will continue helping veterans as it has done for the past decade, Gallina said. More than 300 veterans have been helped and projects are currently underway in five states.
Gallina said he will work as executive director for the "immediate and near future," and stressed that the nonprofit has a solid administrative team in place.
Since news of Beatty's passing, Purple Heart Homes has seen an increase in donations -- and an increase in requests for assistance for veterans, he said.
"We've seen a great outpouring of support," he said. "People that Dale inspired are motivated. And there's still a need. People recognize that and want to help."'Wounded Homecoming'
Gallina also took the opportunity to discuss the upcoming release of "Wounded Homecoming," a book he and Beatty wrote.
The book, which will be released on May 8, is available for pre-order on the Purple Heart Homes website (https://purplehearthomesusa.org). All proceeds from book sales will support the nonprofit's mission, he said.
The book explores the background of the Purple Heart Homes co-founders, both of whom were injured when their Humvee hit two anti-tank mines in Iraq on Nov. 15, 2004. Beatty lost both of his legs below the knees and Gallina suffered a traumatic brain injury.
"I think it turned out phenomenal," Gallina said of the book. "We had a great run together and we got to review that while writing the book. There are definitely stories in the book people haven't heard."