In loving memory: Ribbon-cutting set for home planned for wounded veteran
by Justin Larson
August 16, 2014 04:00 AM | 2472 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dana Walters
Dana Walters
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A Cobb mother is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, in Smyrna, to launch a campaign to build a home for a wounded veteran.

The house would be built in memory of her daughter, Dana Walters, who had cystic fibrosis, the No. 1 killer of children and young adults in the U.S., according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Dana Walters, who lived to be 20, spoke publically about her disease to raise awareness and research funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation until her death in 1994. Her mother, Karen Walters, created the Dana Walters Scholarship Foundation in 1995 to help those with cystic fibrosis pay for education.

A branch of the foundation, Operation: Soldier at Ease, is the nonprofit behind the house build Karen Walters is planning in Smyrna.

“My daughter was not in the military, but she fought her own battle every single day,” Karen Walters said. “This home is our thank you for her example of what grace and dignity in the face of adversity looks like. It’s also a thank you to the service member that volunteered to make our country a better place.”

This will be the first house the nonprofit has attempted to build and is expected to cost $207,000.

On Thursday, Operation: Soldier at Ease will close on the land the house will sit on at 000 Linnwood Drive for $51,000 after the nonprofit raised money for 10 years, Karen Walters said.

The idea to build and gift a home was inspired by her daughter, Karen Walters said.

“On the day of Dana’s death, she wanted to be moved out of her room so she could give it to her brother,” Karen Walters said. Dana Walters’ brother was not in the military, her mother said, explaining this was just an example of her daughter’s kindness. “She was always so selfless. If she had realized the dream of a home of her own she would want it to go to the right person as well.”

Selection of the veteran will be made by the nonprofit. Qualified candidates are being proposed by Atlanta’s Wounded Warriors Project, a separate organization that offers a variety of programs, services and events for wounded veterans. Karen Walters hopes a veteran is chosen before the event so the community can get to know them.

“We want everybody to be there because this soldier is going to probably relocate,” she said. “He’s going to need the community’s help when he’s here. They’ve got to embrace him.”

The support for the build has been overwhelming, Karen Walters said.

“We have so many wonderful people coming up to us saying, ‘I want to give,’” she said.

Construction, plumbing and electrical services have all been volunteered by local businesses. Food for Tuesday’s event is being provided by Chick-fil-A without charge. Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna donated a one-year membership at its shooting range to be raffled at the event.

Commissioner Bob Ott, who will be at the ribbon-cutting Tuesday, praised the nonprofit and what it’s done to bring the community together, along with Jay Wallace, owner of Adventure Outdoors.

“It’s a good cause,” Wallace said. “The veterans need as much support as they can get. I wish we could do more.”

“This is a house that love is building,” Karen Walters said. “Passion is going to drive the completion of this home.”

Even with all the assistance from the community, there is still a lot that needs to be done, Karen Walters said, though she isn’t intimidated by the task.

“It would be pitiful if we were intimated by building a house compared to a soldier being sent to Afghanistan,” she said. “We should be strengthened, not intimidated.”

The house still needs the continued support of Cobb’s residents, Karen Walters said.

“We want everyone in Cobb to come and embrace this cause,” she said.

For more information, call (770) 855-8081 or email info@operationsoldieratease.org

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