WEATHERFORD — Josh Holm stood before a large picture window, but he wasn’t looking out on Steel Hope Ranch, the nonprofit veterans getaway he and volunteers are building in Mineral Wells.

“Sometimes, there’s birds out there,” he said. “Sometimes, there’s not. Sometimes, there’s people feeding the birds out there.”

Holm also is not standing unassisted. Hoisted from a wheelchair he found himself in after a freaky medical episode, the Army veteran is learning to stand again at Santa Fe Health and Rehabilitation in Weatherford.

Progress at the ambitious Steel Hope Ranch project had been going well.

A Veterans Day open house drew more than 50 vets and their families to a flag-draped observance on Unity Field in front of the 3,200-square-foot gutted mansion that will be Steel Hope Ranch’s central office and fellowship hall.

“We need to get the house cleared out first, and we need to do all the plumbing and stuff,” he said. “We’ve got running water to the house, but we don’t have running water in it. … I’m looking for a window place and a door place.”

Along with rehabilitating the one-time home of Mineral Wells philanthropist and veteran supporter Raymond L. Martin Jr., Holm plans to add 22 cabins to the landscape.

The end goal is a retreat that will welcome vets for a week, 30 days, whatever they need to find hope that’s elusive to so many as they return from war and readjust to civilian life. Members of law enforcement and first responders also will find the ranch gate open, he said.

At the Veterans Day event, Holm moved about the crowd wearing the leg braces he’d employed since rising from a wheelchair a decade earlier. The need for assistance moving about is fallout from an improvised explosive device that found him in Iraq.

“This is making me stand straight,” he said last week of the standing frame that Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Roger Garcia, a fellow vet, had helped Holm into with a belt and a hoist. “I’m trying to move my heels up. It’s sending a signal from my brain to that nerve: ‘Wake up!’ We’re trying to get me to be as independent as I can for the injuries I have.”

Therapist John Wesley Gericke, another fellow vet, in Holm’s army, indicated his patient has a shot at success.

“He makes it all happen — that’s it,” Gericke said.

Holm enjoys seeing several veterans on the Santa Fe staff, including social worker Chelsea Barge, also Army.

“We’re artillery buddies,” she said, as Holm noted the pair were in Iraq at the same time.

She looked at Holm, as they stood in the cafeteria, praising his will to buck the odds.

“Every trauma flag I have, you hit,” she told him.

Holm gets by with a little help from his friends.

Steel Hope team member Julie Norris is a constant visitor and brought him a steel drum, on which he practices hymns. He’s figured out, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” which he first sings a little shaky on the high notes but firms it up on a second go-around.

His kids, Rebecca and Ethan Holm, took him to church and a movie on a recent Sunday, and “Becca” surprised him with a visit one recent evening.

“That small connection, having that connection from home,” he said, pointing to a blooming hyacinth in a wicker basket that arrived from an anonymous friend. “We don’t even know who sent that. … Even that sentimental act of sending these flowers, that just puts the spark of hope in your life.”

The Dec. 21 episode that set Holm back has mostly baffled doctors. His wife, Crystal, said it was a scary moment.

Holm said he was out of his braces, resting his legs, when he bent to pick up some hand cream.

“And I turned, and I heard a pop,” he said. “And I looked at my hands, and my hands were purple. And all of a sudden I knew I was not going to be able to stand. It felt like someone grabbed my neck and my back and bent me in half.

His wife tried to move him once, he said. “And when she heard me holler out, she said, ‘Nope.’”

Holm was flown to Harris Methodist in Fort Worth, where he underwent MRI and CT scan tests.

The physicians said they could operate, but there were no guarantees. There was a lot of fluid on his spine, indicating physical trauma had occurred.

“They said they don’t know exactly what caused that,” he said. “The best I’ve heard is it’s like a slipped screw. You turn it a little more and it goes loose again.”

He opted for, in the doctor’s words, “intense rehabilitation,” starting with 20 days at Palo Pinto Nursing and Rehabilitation, five hours of work each day.

Holm knows he’s got a long journey ahead. It certainly was shortened a few days after the episode, when movement from his waist up returned.

Crystal Holm is on a journey of her own, de-stressing with her mother on a short cruise. Speaking by cell phone, she recalled the fright of seeing her husband fallen again.

“It was also — honestly, it was like, I’m not ready to do this again,” she said. “But we’re, like, alright. We’ll do this again. I said I was grateful for the 10 years he was walking.”

Josh is looking for some more help from his friends.

He hopes volunteers will join the rehab effort on the mansion and donations toward a modified truck he can drive by hand.

He’s priced a few used vehicles for sale in the region and says 22 donors pitching in $1,500 each will earn their business logo on the back of the vehicle.

To donate, go to and click on “ways to support” to be taken to four options -- by text/mail, Amazon Smile, hosting an event or becoming a sponsor for an event or the overall project.

He is hoping a nonprofit associated with veterans will help him with a home fashioned for his newest challenge.

And, as always, Holm is looking for a volunteer army.

“We really just need a team of people to come help us,” he said. “All I need now is a lot of people doing a little work, other than a few people doing a lot of work. … Right now, I just need some assistance, so I can get back on track.”

And he says he’s learned his lesson.

“I cannot be doing physical labor,” he said. “I’ve pushed myself, and I can’t do that anymore.”

More than one medical staff has come to call Holm “The Comeback Kid.”

His wartime injury and his most recent episode are bookended by other physical trauma.

He was T-boned in a hit-and-run, a traumatic brain injury with seizures was misdiagnosed and he suffered a stroke. He’s also undergone six to eight surgeries including a uvulectomy to dislodge food trapped in his esophagus.

The unsigned card on his mystery hyacinth spoke to the Comeback Kid.

“It says, ‘Get yourself up and AT ‘em, my sweet friend,’” he quoted.

Holm has 100 days to remain at Santa Fe Health and Rehabilitation, under his V.A. benefits.

“When I can walk again, I can help carry others tomorrow,” he said. “I’m going to continue to strive. I’m going to continue to go and continue to work hard and get it all going. … Hopefully, I’ll get back in the braces — and maybe beyond. I’m not going to limit myself anymore. I’m not going to hinder myself. But I’m going to take the helps that are there. I’m going to take the hand that is there.”

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