Retired Tech. Sgt. Roger Melville has worked to improve the lives of veterans in the community. When he called Purple Heart Homes a few months ago on behalf of another veteran, he had no idea it would be his turn to receive help.
Melville, 66, said Purple Heart Homes encouraged him to apply to their “Veterans Aging in Place” program. The program is designed to make needed home improvements so veterans can stay in their homes as they age. The organization partners with volunteers to do renovations at no charge to the veteran. The organization’s various programs all center around making homes more comfortable and accessible.
Renovations officially kicked off June 29, in a ceremony at Melville’s home in east Charlotte.
I thought I had to be dead for everybody to come together like this. The Purple Heart Homes makeover that soon will happen here truly means the world to us. This is more than awesome.
Family, friends and Purple Heart Homes volunteers gathered on Melville’s lawn, where a tent was set up. An American flag hung from the porch and before the ceremony began, everyone paused to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
James Prosser, assistant secretary for veterans affairs for North Carolina, and Cornell Wilson Jr., secretary for military and veterans affairs for North Carolina, both spoke.
Prosser said he’s known Melville for several years as a community volunteer. He said Melville has helped veterans, homeless people and people who have mental illnesses.
“It’s a chance for us to give back to him and that’s what makes this so special,” Prosser said. “We’re recognizing one of our own veterans that has done so much for the community.”
John Gallina, co-founder and CEO of Purple Heart Homes, spoke about Melville’s military service and the need to help veterans.
“I’m always encouraged when I can hear, at the beginning of a project, from a family that says, ‘This is going to make a difference in my life,’” Gallina said.
Melville and his wife, Kathleen, live in a home built in 1939. He said the doorways are very narrow and need to be widened, and the shower also needs improvement.
Purple Heart Homes will renovate Melville’s master bedroom and bathroom to improve accessibility. Also, they will replace the banisters on the stairs in front of the house and add a walkway to the front door. Melville isn’t sure how long the renovations will take, but he said he’s a patient person.
“This makes me realize (Purple Heart Homes) certainly is taking care of veterans one home at a time,” Melville said.
During his 30-year enlistment period, Melville served in security in the U.S. Air Force while stationed at the Bitburg Air Force Base in Germany during the Vietnam War. When he left the Air Force, Melville attended N.C. State University and studied animal husbandry.
After a few years of civilian life, he signed up for the N.C. Air National Guard and attended the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. He became the first bio-environmental engineering technician for the N.C. Air National Guard and started the use of occupational medical programs. He also established the first environmental protection monitoring program.
In 1992, Melville joined the N.C. Army National Guard and worked in personnel records and military payroll. He was honorably discharged in 2000, but retired from the military in 2010 at age 60, when he became eligible for retirement benefits. Melville has since worked as a volunteer counselor at the Urban Ministry Center, a nonprofit that helps homeless people in Charlotte. He also makes referrals for veterans to direct them to resources they may need.
Gallina said Purple Heart Homes has helped about 125 veterans in eight years. He and Dale Beatty co-founded the organization in 2008, after serving in Iraq. Gallina said the idea came to them when the community built an accessible home for Beatty, whose legs were amputated below the knees after their vehicle struck a landmine.
Now, Purple Heart Homes has nine chapters and operates in 19 states, Gallina said.
Melville said the beauty of the Aging in Place program is that the renovations allow him to stay in his home longer.
“I thought I had to be dead for everybody to come together like this,” he said. “The Purple Heart Homes makeover that soon will happen here truly means the world to us. This is more than awesome.”
Jane Little: 704-358-5336; @janelittle26
Here are of some of the awards earned by Roger Melville:
Presidential Unit Citation with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster.
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster.
Air Force Good Conduct Medal.
National Defense Service Medal.
Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster.
Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Award.
N.C. National Guard Service Ribbon.
145 TAC Clinic’s Outstanding Airman of the Year 1982
Letter of Commendation 1983 from Brig. Gen. Bishop.
Recognition of Federal Service Certificate and Emblem, 1990 from Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Robb Jr.
Humanitarian Service Medal 1996. Hurricane Fran.
N.C. National Guard Service Award 1992 to 1997. Second award from Capt. Hilary Dubois.
N.C. National Guard Achievement Medal 1999. Second one, for Outstanding support of the relief mission in eastern N.C. Providing comfort to the victims of Hurricane Floyd.