Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Vietnam veteran David Walker admitted being a bit humbled as people worked on his roof in Northwest Albuquerque late Friday morning.
“I’m totally blown away by it,” he said as workers finished pulling off the remnants of a roof that had been in place since the house was built by his grandfather in 1953.
“It was still holding up,” he said. “I had a few leaks starting to come through.”
The 70-year-old no longer has to worry about those leaks. A crew from Whitlock Enterprises was finishing putting up a new roof for free as part of a program that assists veterans in need.
It was a moment he says he never thought was possible until his daughter, Karrie Waid, made him aware of the Owens Corning Roof Deployment Project, a partnership between the company and Habitat for Humanity. She helped him fill out the forms to apply for assistance and got him in touch with Doug Champlin, director of operations at Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity.
Through the partnership with Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity, Walker was selected and approved as the recipient for the roof replacement.
“At a young age, Mr. Walker left the safety of his family and home in America to bravely enter the front lines of duty and fight for our freedom,” Champlin said. “We want Mr. Walker to know how much the community supports him and appreciates everything he has done for our country.”
Reality sets in
Walker was younger than most when his father signed a waiver allowing him to join the Marine Corps at 17.
“I had been in little skirmishes, bad things that little kids do,” he said of the reason his father signed. “I was getting into a little mischief, not bad criminal stuff, nothing like that.”
And Walker said he was a little excited when he was first deployed to Vietnam in 1967.
“It wasn’t so bad at first,” he said. “I was too young to know any better. I thought I was going on this great adventure.”
It didn’t take long for the reality of war to set in.
“About three days after getting in the country, it got really bad as far as people being dismembered, killed and being shot at,” Walker said. “It was pretty challenging to deal with when you’re such a young age. Taking someone’s life is a terrible thing to have to do, whether they were shooting at you or not.”
Walker was one of the youngest members of his battalion. He took part in one of the bloodiest battles of the war, the battle for Hue city during the Tet Offensive in early 1968. He was wounded during the battle, and he received a Purple Heart medal and was honored with the Presidential Citation Award for his bravery.
“I lost half a dozen of my comrades,” he said of the battle. “I lost three of them in one day.”
Walker served in Vietnam from 1967 to ’69. He remained in the Marines until 1971, reaching the rank of corporal when he was discharged.
“I did some construction work, drove trucks,” he said of his time after his military service. “Things got really bad. The PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) set in on me. I don’t think I realized what was happening to my brain at first. There was absolutely zero mental health at the VA until about the mid-to-late 1980s.”
Despite his struggles with PTSD, Walker said he does not regret serving his country.
“I’m proud of it,” he said. “I’m glad that I went. It traumatized the hell out of me. It’s something I would do again, and again. It’s for our country, our freedom.”
His service has earned him the admiration of those involved in the effort to replace his roof.
“We are proud to give back to Mr. Walker for the sacrifices he has made for our country,” said Greg LaVoie, owner of Whitlock Enterprises. “It has been a privilege to get involved with the Roof Deployment Project, and we jumped at the chance to participate in a program that has given back to so many of our nation’s heroes.”
Richard Auld, area sales manager for Owens Corning Roofing, said the work on Walker’s roof is one of more than 140 such projects that have been completed since the program started in 2016.
“This is the second we’ve done in New Mexico,” he said.
Owens Corning Roofing and its network of independent platinum contractors, with support from the Owens Corning Foundation, donated roofing materials and labor to replace the roofing shingles on Walker’s home. Auld said the new roof comes with a lifetime warranty.
“This is unreal,” Walker said. “I’m completely floored by this.”