It's not every day that you get to meet a true hero. On Sunday, September 9, I did. Puerto Rican native Emmanuel (Manny) Melendez-Diaz nearly lost his life serving our country in Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, the battle for Manny only began in 2004 when a bomb exploded near him in Iraq. Manny not only lost his right leg, but he also underwent intestinal replacement surgery, something to Manny's knowledge is the only successful case in history. And as difficult of a situation as it is for Manny, he wishes only to thank his organ donor's family, for his new intestine was the gift from a child, an 8-year-old who unexpectedly passed away. Manny still endures other complications from his injuries such as diabetes, but it hasn't shaken his spirits. As pictured below, Manny is still highly ambitious to prove there is a lot of life to be lived as a wounded veteran. He even takes piano lessons (as pictured below), and he makes his way around his home with modern technology and some assistance from the Home Depot and media partner PullSpark.
Home Depot has been sponsoring an ongoing campaign to help wounded veterans like Manny. The Home Depot has funded several renovations including a stair lift, converting his first floor water heater room into a fully functioning bathroom, and they have also installed a new HVAC system due to the sensitivity of his weakened immune system. Manny now resides in Hagerstown, MD, for the technology and personnel is not readily available in Puerto Rico to treat Manny. He still talks of the recent hurricanes that have devastated his homeland, and strongly wishes he could help. Manny states, "I like to be the one who helps, not the one who is helped." I can only imagine how difficult that must be, but I thanked him strongly for everything he has endured for our country. Manny is an inspiration to us all, and the Home Depot is doing a really good thing supporting Manny and other wounded veterans.