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Guard members answer the call to help build disability ramp in Bremerton


Guard members stand at a finished wheelchair ramp in Bremerton, which
they helped complete during a lunch break recently.

Guard members answer the call to help build disability ramp in Bremerton

Story by Staff Sgt. Peter Christian
JFHQ Public Affairs Office
Washington National Guard

        BREMERTON, Wash. – National Guard members turned a 16-hour project to finish a disability ramp to help an ailing Bremerton boy into a lunch-time project – and helped save the boy’s family a small fortune in the process recently.

             "Each and every one of the people involved have my undying gratitude," mother Heather Post Werdal told the National Guard in a Facebook message. "We are truly overwhelmed at the support of our community. ... These soldiers have my undying gratitude and devotion. They showed up and made the wheelchair ramp happen. I will be forever grateful."

              The troopers of C Troop, 1-303d Cavalry Regiment, 81st Brigade Combat Team were deeply focused on their gunnery training in the late morning when their Family Assistance Specialist, James “Goody” Goodman, stopped by to drop off snacks.  Besides bringing food, Goody had another motive when he stopped into the office of Cpt. Don Arnold, the commander of C Troop.

                Goody told Arnold the story of  Hayden Werdal , a13-year-old Bremerton boy, who lived a mile away and was currently an in-patient at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Some weeks ago, the boy was admitted to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma because Hayden’s parents Jeffrey and Heather Werdal thought he was suffering from a simple cold. The boy’s hands had slightly numbed in the morning when the problems first turned up. In fact, by the time his mother finished putting the boy’s coat on, most of Hayden’s body had numbed.

                They rushed the boy to the hospital, where it was discovered that he had contracted an enterovirus. Today, the boy has limited movement of his hands as the virus had attacked his spinal cord, causing him to be paralyzed. He needs to use a wheelchair – but the family didn’t have an access ramp that could work.

                Goody had received a personal request to help find volunteers willing to help renovate the Wardel’s home with installation of a wheelchair access ramp, which would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, in time for Hayden’s return home. At first, getting help was hard, but soon many people answered the call and got started on renovating the home’s exterior. 

                Hayden was scheduled for release from Seattle Children’s Hospital on January 13 and the renovated ramp was still not ready. 

                On Saturday, Jan. 10, something truly amazing happened. Goody approached Cpt. Arnold, and shared the details of the project, the looming deadline and the sincere need of help. Without hesitation, Cpt. Arnold assembled his men and explained Hayden’s story and the desperate need to complete the wheelchair ramp. He told his soldiers that helping would be considered a strictly volunteer mission and would have to be done during their one-hour lunch break. Every hand in the room shot up like a rocket. Every soldier volunteered.

                A short time later, several vehicles personally owned by Guardsmen arrived at the Werdal residence with about two dozen National Guard soldiers. Quickly and without questioning, the Washington Guardsmen took action. They began moving lumber, nail-gunning railings and footboards, placing roof-support beams and clearing the remaining debris from around the new ramp. The crew, which had been working on the house before the soldiers of C Troop arrived, was so amazed and so inspired by these young soldiers they simply let them work.

                For just the one hour C Troop helped, it equaled what would have taken the small crew 16 hours to complete. This allowed the scheduled concrete to arrive as planned for Monday, without delay – in time for Hayden to come home as planned.

                As the soldiers departed, Jeffery and Hayden’s grandfather, Wayne, said he was so impressed that he was at a loss for words.  Tears of joy and gratitude could be seen welling up in their eyes. 

“They fight our wars, fight our wild fires, our mud slides, and still take the time to help us out,” said one crew member. “How awesome is that?”

                Later that afternoon, Goody went back to the Bremerton Readiness Center to once again express how grateful he was on behalf of the family and the small work crew. The response from each solider was commonly unified.

                “Thank you for allowing us to help,” replied the Troopers.

                “I expected no less from my men, I knew they would help,” Arnold said. “I didn’t even have to ask.”