Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Sgt. Adam Egli stands beside his wife Danielle, holding up the keys to the Egli family's mortgage-free, permanent home provided by the Bank of America and the Military Warriors Support Foundation in Dacula Tuesday. Sgt. Egli was hit by a road-side bomb while serving in Baghdad in July of 2007.
DACULA -- Danielle Egli has always loved planting flowers. But as a military wife, her family had usually moved on by the time the flowers bloomed.
After her husband Sgt. Adam Egli accepted the keys to a mortgage-free, permanent home for the family in Dacula on Tuesday, Danielle couldn't wait to dig in the dirt and plant a flower bed.
"My head is spinning," Danielle Egli said. "Just look at this neighborhood. It means so much that my kids will be playing in this yard."
It is the first big break for the family, who have struggled since Adam was hit by a road-side bomb in Baghdad in the summer of 2007.
Danielle fought back tears Tuesday as her family entered their own home, given to them mortgage-free by Bank of America, through the Wounded Warriors Support Foundation. She gave up crying years ago, when her oldest daughter was 2 and burst into tears because mommy was upset about missing daddy while he was deployed in Iraq. But Tuesday was not a day for tears. It was a day for smiles, even for her normally stoic soldier of a husband.
"We can save money and not have to live month-to-month," said Adam Egli, who still has shrapnel in his knee and back. "We don't have to worry any more about having a roof over our heads."
Surviving after the desert
Adam used to call himself "Superman," assuring his young wife that he would be never get hurt while waging war in one of the most dangerous places on the planet.
"I hated it," Danielle remembers. "That was when you didn't want your husband in Baghdad."
Half a world away from that desert, Danielle was living alone with a toddler and an infant at Fort Lewis that summer, when she got a call from her husband at 4 a.m. He said he was hurt but that he'd be OK.
She doesn't remember calling her in-laws, but she did. The whole next week -- as Adam moved from hospital to hospital on his way home to his base Washington state -- is a blur. She finally saw him, leaning on crutches in a hospital, and knew her soldier would be OK.
Egli would survive, but three of his friends died in the road-side bombing. And the family was forever changed.
"It was a huge adjustment, and they don't train you for that," said Danielle, a former Air Force Reservist herself.
After Adam medically retired from the Army, family members offered a farmhouse in Indiana as a place to stay for the young parents, who now had a son Torrin along with their daughters, Kyleigh and Brynn.
There, Egli tried to reclaim his life. He tried going back to school, but after the first semester, post-traumatic stress disorder reared its head.
Despite 18 months in therapy and help from friends and family, bad things kept happening.
"I never wanted to give up, but it kept getting worse and worse and worse," Danielle said.
Seven months ago, a tree crashed through the roof of the home they were living in, and Egli had to quit his job and move his wife and three kids into his parents' house in Cumming so they could have a roof over their heads.
The determined Army wife kept searching the Internet, looking for support and help. She applied and applied to programs, but because the family wasn't living in their car, she said, they kept getting turned down.
On Valentine's Day, things started to look up.
After struggling through menial jobs for months, one of Egli's contacts from his former employer in Chicago called and offered him a job at a Georgia location.
Less than a week later, the former soldier stormed back into the house after leaving for work one morning, grabbed his wife and twirled her around. She wondered if something was wrong, but the news was good. "We got the house," he told her on her 28th birthday.
This weekend, they will move in.
"I can't wait to get our stuff in here," Adam Egli said, talking about how much he looked forward to hooking up the satellite television and settling in to watch some sports. He said he would even watch gymnastics if it means quality time at his own home.
"This is such an amazing blessing," said Gail Egli, the veteran's mom. "It's just turned their lives around. You can't even imagine how it was even two months ago, to a family who didn't have hope."
While the kids searched the new pantry and found cookies inside, Egli's dad, Ron, recounted the time after the Vietnam War, when soldiers came home to face scorn in their community. For his wounded son to be enveloped in support means so much.
But the house isn't all. Through the Military Warriors Support Foundation, Adam and Danielle will receive continual training on financial readiness, and they will be responsible for the taxes and insurance on their new Melrose Trace ranch-style house. Bank of America will help with any needed repairs for the next five years.
"Days like today are exactly why Military Warriors started," the organization's ambassador Chris Burns said during a short ceremony handing over the keys. "It's such an honor. Thank you both for your tremendous service to our country."