A Life Returned

Atlas Donates Roof For Military Family's New Beginning

Amy R. Connolly, Writer
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Share Now:

When U.S. Marine Sgt. Thomas Brennan suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Afghanistan in 2010, he could have succumbed to the debilitating aftermath of the trauma. He had severe memory loss, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and also attempted suicide. Instead, Brennan forged ahead to start anew with his wife and daughter by his side.

With the help of Operation Finally Home and Atlas Roofing, the Brennan family will be enjoying a custom-built, mortgage-free home as a part of their new beginning.

Construction on the 3-bedroom, 2½-bathroom home in Virginia began in July. The Atlas roof was installed in October, and the home is scheduled to be completed by spring 2020.

Brennan said he is humbled by the outpouring of support that will allow them to have a mortgage-free home.

“It’s still really hard to believe, in an awesome way,” Brennan says. “When we applied, it was something that we hoped we would get, but we always tried to keep our hope in check. It’s still really surreal.”

Hope is turning into reality, but only after a mountain of adversity.

Trauma And Healing

Brennan started his military career with the Marines in 2003 and served two tours in Iraq. In 2010, he was stationed in Afghanistan for about three months before a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) exploded feet away. Brennan experienced neurological problems due to the blast, which was later diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury. He medically retired in 2012 with a Purple Heart.

Throughout his treatment and recovery, Brennan continued to endure physical and psychological trauma that led to a suicide attempt with sleeping pills. When he realized the impact his death would have on his daughter, he vomited the pills.

“I imagined my daughter’s tears and shame years later once she found out her father quit on himself because life proved too difficult,” he explained in an emotional article he wrote for The New York Times in 2013. “I couldn’t leave her to a life without me. I couldn’t have her think I was a failure.”

As a result of his injuries, Brennan also developed aphasia, a communication disorder that made it difficult to verbalize his thoughts. So, he turned to pen and paper.

Over the years, Brennan has penned pieces about his military experiences for The New York Times, Stars and Stripes, Vanity Fair and the Huffington Post, among others. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Massachusetts and a master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also staff writer at the Jacksonville (NC) Daily News.

Today, Brennan focuses his efforts on The War Horse, an online publication that investigates and reports issues involving the Defense Department, Veterans Affairs and the U.S. military. Brennan started The War Horse to focus on the impacts of post-9/11 conflicts.

Finally Home

In the midst of all his work, Brennan and his family were shocked when they learned they were selected for the Operation Finally Home residence.

On July 2, the family was expecting to be completing the interview process for the home. Instead, the day came with a police escort to the home site in Culpeper, VA, and a groundbreaking ceremony with representatives from companies donating to the project.

Bill Taylor, an Atlas sales representative for Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, said watching the Brennans throughout the ceremony was emotional. Taylor is proud to be part of the team that is helping the Brennan family.

“The freedoms that we enjoy are because our veterans fought for us,” he said. “Some of them lost their lives and others suffered devastating injuries. All of them deserve to be recognized.”

In total, Atlas donated more than $4,600 in roofing materials, including:

Rusty Carroll, executive director of the Texas-based Operation Finally Home, said the home was dried-in by the first week of November. While on a walk-through, the Brennan family was greeted by loving and supportive notes stapled to walls. Carroll said none of the work could have been done without the backing of the construction industry.

“It is our firm belief that the people and businesses within the home building industry are the salt of the earth,” he said. “When the building industry is given the opportunity to serve those that have so selflessly served others, they give of their time, talents and treasure in such meaningful ways. Support from the building community and companies such as Atlas Roofing are at the center of our mission.”