Supporting The Troops' Homes
Local builder gets CNN hero status, standing ovation at Rockets game
It's certainly easy to throw around the word "hero" with nary a second thought.
"You fixed my flat tire. You're my hero!" "He's such a hero for rescuing my cat from that tree!" "She finished a marathon. What a hero!"
Now put that impromptu mechanic, that good humanitarian, and that successful athlete up against Houstonian Dan Wallrath.
Wallrath is a home builder, and has been for over 30 years. But that doesn't make him a hero.
Five years ago, Steve Schulz called Wallrath. His son had returned home after serving with the U.S. Marines in Iraq, badly maimed and wheelchair-ridden.
Schultz knew he'd need to remodel the family home to accommodate their son's sudden disability. But how could they do it? How would they pay for it?
"We'll take care of it," Wallrath told Schulz. And the additions were made to the Schultz family home. On Wallrath's dime.
A hero? Probably so. But he doesn't stop there.
Because remodeling one house simply wasn't enough, Wallrath started Operation Finally Home in League City. The sole purpose of Wallrath's group is to construct homes for returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. At no cost to the veterans or their families. To date, 10 new homes have gone up, and 12 more are on the way.
A hero? Absolutely.
So much of a hero, in fact, that CNN's Heroespegged Wallrath as one of the feature's 10,000 nominees for Hero of the Year.
But wouldn't you know it? The hero candidates have been whittled down. With only 10 left, Houston's Wallrath stands among the finalists.
A "hero" is defined as someone "who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities." We might be going out on a two-by-four here, but we think Wallrath hits the hero nail right on the head.
The Houston Rockets agree. They brought Wallrath out at halftime of Wednesday night's game against the New Orleans Hornets to get recognized. Much of the crowd rose to give the ovation. Wallrath stood there in this cowboy hat and blue jeans (this is a pure Texas hero), looking more than a little surprised by the force of the cheers.
He shouldn't be.
Wallrath has made it his life's ambition to support felled troops with his brick and mortar. The least we could do is show a little respect for his selfless deeds by throwing a few thousand Texas-sized votes his way in CNN's on-line voting to determine a heroic winner among the finalists. Wallrath and the nine other finalists from around the country will be honored in CNN's Heroes: An All-Star Tribute program on Thanksgiving night.
By making the Top 10, Wallrath's Operation Finally Home receives $25,000. If Wallrath comes out on top in the on-line voting, he'll get another $100,000 to further his mission.
Go, Dan, go.