Lending a helping hand to one of America’s finest

By Tori Hamby

PFC Furman Walls (seated) with Char-Broil marketing director Hector Garcia, wife Mary Walls and House of Heroes executive assistant Kelly Darr, outside of the Walls’ west Charlotte home. House of Heroes constructed a wheelchair ramp for the 89-year-old World War II veteran’s house. (Photo courtesy of House of Heroes))

World War II veteran PFC Furman Walls was barely 20-years old when he was drafted into U.S. Army and sent to Hawaii, not long after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Although decades have passed since Walls left the military in 1946, House of Heroes, a Georgia-based nonprofit that performs home repairs for veterans, has helped make life a little easier for the 89-year-old west Charlotte resident. The group toiled through June to build a wheelchair ramp leading to the back entrance of the Walls’ home, despite scorching temperatures.

“It’s an excellent feeling, the most highest feeling,” said Walls, who suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis and must use a wheelchair to get around. “I’m grateful, grateful, grateful.”

House of Heroes began making home repairs for veterans living in the Columbus, Ga. area in 2000, and has now expanded their work into five other cities thanks to some help from its founding sponsor and outdoor cooking company Char-Broil. The two teamed up for a mobile summer tour, bringing their services to Charlotte; Dallas, Texas; Indianapolis; Philadelphia; and Orlando, Fla. 

Kelly Darr, executive assistant for House of Heroes, said the organization reaches out to local United Way chapters to find veterans in need of assistance. Any veteran who has served for any amount of time is eligible for the program. 

“It’s really the least we can do for the heroes who have given up so much for our country,” Darr said. 

Home Depot and Flatout Bread also contributed materials and labor to the Charlotte project. A typical project lasts one full day and takes about 20 to 30 volunteers. The organization also presents each veteran with a U.S. flag that has flown over the nation’s capitol in his or her honor.

Walls, who lives at the home with his wife Mary Walls, said he looks forward to visiting friends, neighbors and nearby Waddell Park. Walls invited volunteers inside his home to take breaks throughout the day, and answered many questions about his four years in the service. 

In 1946, Walls left Hawaii for Okinawa, Japan, where he helped with U.S. military efforts to restore order following the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Walls recalled vivid memories of seeing the remnants of the destruction firsthand. 

“The biggest experience was seeing bodies, petrified, in their uniforms,” Walls said. “They were all mummy-like in their uniforms.”

The Mount Holly native attended Reed High School in Belmont, where he was valedictorian of his graduating class. He worked for Duke Power for the 25 cents an hour before being drafted into the Army in 1942. 

Furman has worked as a part-time mechanic for several years and has served as commander of American Legion Post 168 and VFW Post 9104. The Salvation Army and the Boys & Girls Club have awarded Furman with several community awards and recognitions throughout the years.

“I’m so excited to finally leave my house without it taking so much effort,” Walls said. “It has been a blessing – such a blessing.” q

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