Statesville veteran to be honored at Coca Cola 600 | People
CONCORD - Even after Dale Beatty lost both of his legs in combat, he refused to let his injuries keep him from serving his country.
His continued commitment to helping other wounded veterans through Purple Heart Homes brings him to Charlotte Motor Speedway to be recognized with the Stonewall Jackson Award during the Coca-Cola 600 weekend.
“Of everything surrounding the 10 greatest days of racing, the most important thing we do at Charlotte Motor Speedway is to recognize the service men and women who risk everything to provide us the freedoms we enjoy every day,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Dale exemplifies everything it means to be a hero, from his endless support of the ideals of our great country, to his military record in service to our nation.”
Beatty and fellow Iraq veteran John Gallina joined the North Carolina National Guard when the two were friends in high school. They were together in Iraq on Nov. 15, 2004, when an antitank mine exploded under their Humvee, sending the vehicle flying nearly 200 feet through the air before coming to rest upside down. Beatty was trapped, his legs crushed by the weight of the vehicle.
At Walter Reed Medical Center, doctors amputated his left leg, then gave Beatty the choice of keeping his right leg and facing years of therapy and a lifetime of pain or amputate it as well. Beatty chose amputation.
“There’s more to war than just being a soldier,” Beatty said. “I think that after being hurt, it changes your outlook. It changes your focus on things. Even if you have a lot of injuries, you can still live a good life if you have a place to call home. That’s really what every soldier wants.”
Back home in Statesville, N.C., the community rallied behind their hero, offering to build him a specially-designed home on his family’s land.
Beatty found solace working alongside other community members and invited Gallina, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the attack, to join the effort. When the project was complete, the two realized they still had more to offer and formed Purple Heart Homes, an organization that carries out handicapped access projects for injured veterans.
“My community really stepped up and helped me build a house,” Beatty said. “After that was all said and done, we all stepped back that thought, ‘that was really cool.’ It was a good experience for me and my family – and my community. So we thought about how we could replicate that.
Beatty and Gallina founded Purple Heart Homes, a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers from all walks of life who share the desire to give back to veterans who have given so much of themselves in service to their country. Purple Heart Homes helps disabled veterans who are already homeowners with any remodeling or upfit that may be required to help overcome the challenges that may come from the disability. For veterans who are not homeowners, the program helps them into new or existing homes.
“Purple Heart Homes is a lot more than Dale and John,” Beatty said. “It’s a whole idea. It’s a whole community of people. It’s great to be able to spread the word about Purple Heart Homes. I’ve been told that so many times, ‘you’re such an inspiration.’ But you’ve got to do something with that. This is just what I’ve chosen to do.”
Presented annually since 1992, the Stonewall Jackson Award recognizes recipients who have demonstrated, by example, the highest standards of patriotism through personal support of the military and/or by personal service to sacrifice above the call of duty. Past recipients include General Gary Luck (USA), Congressman Bill Hefner (NC), General James Livingston (USMC), General Dwayne Dorming (USSOC), the 82nd Airborne Division, General Lloyd Newton (USA), General Peter Pace, General Buck Herman (USA), General Henry Shelton (USA), General John Handy (USAF), General William B. Tonguy (USSOC), Command Sergeant Major Michael W. Williams, Brigadier General Iwan B. Clontz, Colonial (ret.) Walter Joseph Marm and last year’s winner, former American Legion Post Commander Dale Punch.
Beatty said he was honored that Purple Heart Homes was being recognized for the work it has done for disabled veterans and being included among such a distinguished list of past recipients. Beatty said the ceremony will be a reunion of sorts for he and Punch, who was honored last year.
“When we were in Iraq, he really took care of us,” Beatty said. “He ran the American Legion that sent us so many care packages that we could hardly keep up. It’s pretty humbling to be up there with Dale Punch and to receive the same type of award.”