Operation Rebuild Hope helps Korean War veteran

Operation Rebuild Hope works with Habitat for Humanity and the U.S. Coast Guard to build a ramp for Korean War veteran.

NORTH BEND – Operation Rebuild Hope helped a 91-year-old Korean War veteran this week.

On Monday, Operation Rebuild Hope brought together Habitat for Humanity and the U.S. Coast Guard to build a wheelchair ramp for former U.S. Marine James Perkins.

“Operation Rebuild Hope has had this house on their books for a while,” said Dale Stewart, critical home program manager with Habitat for Humanity.

Stewart initially did the design and cost estimate for Operation Rebuild Hope, which is a nonprofit that works to help veterans, but when he found out there were no volunteers to help build it he stepped up to do that too.

“This veteran and his family have waited six to eight months for this,” said Patrick Wright, founder of Operation Rebuild Hope. “When we do provide something for a veteran, it is the best possible quality. I’ve tried to find volunteers and finally worked with Dale, he did the plans and the Coast Guard agreed to do the labor.”

Coos Head Builders’ Supply also donated half of the materials.

“It’s great that Operation Rebuild Hope can do things like this, but we like when groups help like this because it shows the community that we are doing this together,” Wright said.

As for Perkins, he is a Purple Heart recipient who served a total of two and a half years. He first signed up for two years, but at the time “Congress just about got rid of the Marine Corps,” he remembered. “They put a 60,000 man limit on the Marine Corps.”

When this happened, he was in radar school to become a radar technician. After leaving the Marine Corps once the limit was put in place, a retired lieutenant colonial talked him into joining the inactive reserves.

“I did and forgot all about it,” he said. “I got home one evening and there was a big envelop. I cooked up supper, opened it and read ‘Upon receipt of this order, you have 72 hours to report.’ Of course, four days had gone by.”

When he returned to the Marine Corps, it was for one year.

“It was quite the experience for me,” he said of his service. “I got to do several things I would have never got to do, the first being able to ride a boat across the ocean.”

During his year fighting the Korean War, he was injured. One night, he noticed “little red streaks” on the hillside and at first didn’t know what they were.

“They were just over the hill, had seen or heard us in the dark, set up and were using tracer bullets,” he said. “All at once, something hit my hand. It felt like being hit with a stick. I put it up and found that a round went through the space between my thumb and hand.”

Perkins ended up in a hospital in Japan.

As for the work Operation Rebuild Hope was doing at his house, his family was grateful.

“It’s going to be nice for us going out of the house,” said his wife, Donna Perkins. “We have a rail put up and have to hang on with both hands going down. We take one step at a time and usually one of us walk in front of him so he doesn’t fall.”

Their daughter, Leslie Perkins, was especially thankful for the work being done for her parents.

“I can’t thank them enough for what they’re doing for my mom and dad,” she said. “I don’t want to worry about them falling down stairs.”

Wright said this is the first ramp being put in for a veteran, with possibly two more to be done in the area.

To donate to Operation Rebuild Hope, visit www.operationrebuildhope.org or donate through Operation Rebuild Hope’s Facebook page where a donate button has been set up. To mail a donation, checks or cash can be sent to 2001 Union Ave., Suite 109 in North Bend. Donations can also be dropped off at Operation Rebuild Hope’s office at 2005 Union Ave. in North Bend.

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.