Our Heroes

Hero Stories

PFC (Ret.) Kenny Adams, USA

U.S. Army
Katy, Texas

Cinco Ranch Subdivision

Kenny grew up in Houston, where he attended Stratford High School.  He joined the US Army after graduation and while serving in Afghanistan, was tragically wounded in a “friendly fire” accident.  A weapon accidentally discharged, and the bullet struck Adams’ skull and traveled through his head.  The damage caused Kenny to lose his eyesight and a portion of his brain.  

Kenny was not expected to survive and was even given the Roman Catholic Sacrament of Last Rites.  He holds no grudge against the person responsible for his injuries and continues to help other wounded heroes as a personal mission in life.   He has been known to say, “Being BLIND means you are just Beginning Life In A New Direction.”

Adams received the first Helping A Hero home in 2006 and is a proud advocate for the organization.

Cpl. (Ret.) Paul Gardner, USMC

U.S. Marine Corps
Sugar Land, Texas

Paul was wounded during the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq when his platoon was engaged in a firefight with more than 100 Fedayeen Fighters in the Baghdad suburb of Al Tarymiah, which at the time had yet to be cleared by Coalition Forces. While he was reloading his rifle, an enemy fighter took advantage of the situation and fired off a burst with his AK47 assault rifle, with one of the bullets scoring a hit just under Paul’s left armpit. The bullet destroyed his spleen, collapsed his left lung, and completely severed his spinal cord, instantly and permanently leaving him paralyzed from the waist down and relegating him to a manual wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Paul is a true warrior, as he was ordered to stay behind with the Amphibious Assault Vehicles at the intersection where his platoon was initially ambushed by the enemy, but when he heard an enormous volume of small arms gunfire and explosions coming from his fellow Marines’ position 500 yards away, he rushed to the aid of his comrades and joined the fight. he was able to take out two enemy fighters before being shot himself. Paul’s squadmates immediately killed the insurgent that shot him and came to his aid, evacuating him out of harm’s way under enemy fire and keeping him conscious for the next 45 minutes until he could be flown by helicopter to a field hospital. He had lost almost all of his blood by the time he arrived there, where surgeons immediately performed lifesaving surgery. Paul says that when he finally woke up almost two weeks later at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, “It was the biggest surprise of my life that I was actually still alive.”

Since his injury, Paul has spent years in and out of the VA Hospital in Houston and has had numerous surgeries. He is 100% independent and is able to do almost anything he did prior to his injury. His Helping a Hero home is in Texas.

SSgt (Ret) Daniel Gilyeat, USMC

U.S. Marine Corps
Kansas City, Kansas

SSgt. (Ret.) Gilyeat was born in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.  Dan joined the US Marine Corps in March of 995 and served 4 years of active duty before returning to Kansas and with the USMC Reader Reserve.  Gilyeat returned to active duty shortly after September 11, 2001, and deployed to Iraq on his first combat tour of duty in 2003.  He was wounded during his second deployment to Iraq in July of 2005 when his Humvee was hit by a massive roadside bomb.  The blast severed Dan’s left leg above the knee and while a fellow soldier placed a tourniquet on his leg, Gilyeat began telling jokes to maintain his composure and the control of his men.   The medical team arrived on the scene to find all of Gilyeat’s soldiers laughing.  

Dan’s recovery was remarkable, and he was promoted to Staff Sergeant in the hospital.  Twenty-seven days after surgery, and to the amazement of doctors and nurses, Gilyeat was using his prosthetic leg and walking again.  Two and a half months later, he had stopped taking all medication and he was performing feats he was told he would never be able to do with a prosthetic leg, including kickboxing.  Helping a Hero’s former Board Chair, Meredith Iler nominated Daniel for hit TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Helping a Hero paid off his mortgage as part of the show.  He has been a great encourager for other wounded warriors and we are grateful he found an incredible wife and together they have 6 children.