REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Nov. 9, 2021) – He almost didn’t go.
Scott Barkalow wasn’t even supposed to be at work when Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army Joe Fitzgerald strode into his office at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center and proclaimed, “I’m about to change your world.” Barkalow had only stopped in to grab his computer for a day of telework as a security specialist for DEVCOM AvMC.
By lunch he was dining with Fitzgerald and country music singer-songwriter Lee Greenwood.
By the end of the day, Fitzgerald made good on his promise.
At lunch Barkalow discovered he was in the running for a specially adapted four bedroom, three bathroom home through the Helping a Hero program. The wounded veteran chosen would be announced at that evening’s All Star Salute to Lee Greenwood at the Von Braun Center.
Unconvinced he would win, and admittedly a little tired from the day’s whirlwind of events, Barkalow considered not going to the concert – and even advised his wife, Tina, to not bother making the trip from their home near Nashville.
Within hours, Barkalow was standing on stage at the VBC, symbolic key to his future home in hand.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Barkalow said. “I’m kind of petrified. It’s enjoyable, but it’s a lot to take in. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve known about these programs before, but I never signed up for one because I always thought there was someone worse off than I was, more deserving, so why even jam my name in there.”
Helping a Hero and those who nominated him disagree.
“Sgt. 1st Class Barkalow is selfless on the battlefield and here at home,” said Meredith Iler, chairman emeritus and founder of Helping A Hero. “He never wanted to take a spot for a home from another veteran. We are thrilled to build a beautiful 4-bedroom, 3 bath home that is fully adapted to his needs. The wider doors, roll-in shower and other safety adaptations will make daily living easier, whether on his prosthetic or in a wheelchair. It is a privilege to serve this hero as I have the utmost respect for him and his personal sacrifice for our freedom.”
Originally from the Nashville area, Barkalow joined the Army in 1984. After four years in the infantry, he got out, enrolled at Belmont University, and joined the National Guard 20th Special Forces Group. While he deployed multiple times over the course of his Army career, it was his first deployment to Afghanistan that altered the course of his life.
It was February 19, 2003. Barkalow was on a mission when the vehicle he was riding in rolled across an anti-tank mine. The blast injured the driver, killed the Afghan riding in the back, and blew off Barkalow’s right leg.
“The helicopters came,” recalled Barkalow, who received a Bronze Star for his valor and Purple Heart. “I remember hearing the winding of the bird – they were taking me to the bird, and the closer I got to the bird, the more I thought, ‘Everything’s gonna be alright.’”
Things may be all right, but they look a lot different for Barkalow these days. He spent two years in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Underwent some 18 surgeries. Contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – MRSA – which almost killed him, and still impacts his quality of life today.
While he’s no longer confined to a wheelchair, doctors say it’s mostly only a matter of time before he returns due to degenerative arthritis in his hips. In the nearly 20 years since his injury, he’s not made any handicap adjustments to his home.
“I’ve just been dealing with life ever since then, and all of a sudden bam – you get a house,” Barkalow said. “I’m thankful. This is a divine intervention. It had to be. I give the glory to God.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.