Country music concert raises money to help soldier put trauma of war behind him

Country music concert raises money to help soldier put trauma of war behind him

April 23rd, 2013 by Lindsay Burkholder in Local Regional News

U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Smith, second from left, and his wife, Tori, right, pose for a photo with Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe graduates Madison Sullivan, left, and Brittany Thomas on Monday before the Track 29 country music show featuring Luke Bryan.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


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Tucked away in the woods down a winding driveway, a quiet and peaceful little patch of Apison, Tenn., waits for one wounded soldier to come home.

To help make that peaceful dream a reality, hundreds of boisterous fans lined up outside Track 29 on Monday, dressed in their country finest, to hear one of this year's hottest Nashville singers perform.

"It's definitely exciting that we get to see Luke Bryan and also benefit somebody from the community. I think that's really important," said Brittney Sheaffer, of Chattanooga.

The concert was part of radio station US 101'S 30th anniversary bash. All proceeds went to Steps2Hope, a nonprofit organization that works to help young people who have suffered a loss of mobility from illness or traumatic events.

Part of the money raised at Monday's concert will go to build a fully accessible house for U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Smith.

"I know when we approached Luke about doing the show, Dex told him about Andrew's story and the cause and he just said, 'there's no way I can't do this show,'" said Melissa "Moe" Turner, cohost of US 101'S Dex and Mo Show with Bill Poindexter.

Mark Wilson, who started the nonprofit about a year ago after his own son was badly injured in a 2008 tornado, said, "this is for a very noble purpose, for a young man and woman who have given up a lot for the freedom we enjoy."

Last year, Smith lost both legs, one at the knee and the other just above it, when he stepped on an IED while on duty in Afghanistan.

He also sustained near- fatal injuries to his abdomen.

Smith and wife Tori, both 26, have spent the past year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

They said the outpouring of support they had received from Steps2Hope and the Chattanooga community helped keep them afloat through the long recovery process.

"It's been a crazy year for both Tori and I and it would have been very easy for us to feel incredibly alone during all this," Smith said. "The Chattanooga community has been a huge part of my recovery and [our] journey through this entire thing."

The couple are excited for the new home Wilson and the Steps2Hope team is building for them.

"This past week they actually cleared out where the home is going to be and the driveway up to," Tori said. "And so he was able to go out there and walk the entire driveway and then walk around where our home will be."

But Wilson says the project still needs hundreds of volunteers if the Smiths are to be able to walk through their front door on time. Wilson says construction is slated to start on June 27 and finish up in just eight days, in time for July 4th.

"We are asking the community to join together with us," he said. "Everyone has given so generously, but we'll need thousands of people to build a house in a week."

The couple briefly visited Chattanooga in September, when church and family members, friends and others gathered to honor Smith for his sacrifice. Smith underwent one final surgery on his abdomen in January to help heal the internal injuries he sustained in the blast. The surgery made it impossible for him to eat for two and a half months after the procedure. But Smith pushed through and has since started physical therapy.

"I'm going to rehab every day now," he said, "getting stronger, getting healthier."

Smith's next goal is to learn to run. He and Tori also have been preparing to go to grad school.

"We don't know what we're going to get our master's in," she said, laughing. "But we're studying to take the GRE, so I feel like that's a step."

With a playful little smile, Tori added that kids might be in their future, saying that, once in their new home, they might start "the possibility of talking about children."