Two men who have overcome hardships have now made it their missions to help veterans, and others struggling, build strength and independence through organizations in Mineral Wells and Weatherford.
At the age of 19, Joshua Holm served in Iraq from 2003-04 and it was during that time that his life changed forever.
“As a 19-year-old kid I went over there and got shot and blown up and came back on my own two feet even though I had dealt with trauma and didn’t realize I had what they call a TBI, a traumatic brain injury,” he said. “In 2009, five years after I had gotten out and was transitioning and going through all kinds of rehab for my leg injuries, I ended up having two brain hemorrhages and a stroke, which left me wheelchair-bound for the third time for almost three years.”
Holm said his wife Crystal had to bathe, clothe and feed him for close to 10 months.
“While I was in the chair, my wife said to me, ‘Babe, you’ve got to find purpose through your pain,’” he said. “My perception was that my wife had three children, not just two, because I felt like a child after being so strong at one time and then being so feeble where I couldn’t even take care of my own basic needs.”
Dark times laid ahead as the couple struggled to find the next steps in their life.
“I was an individual who had been hurt — I had physically been hurt through the trauma of war, had also been hurt by words and just by life in general,” Holm said. “I was hurt personally, so I was hurting the ones I loved most and I couldn’t even see it. I was blind to it.”
Holm then saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
“When I thought things were at their worst, that’s when everything just began to rise,” he said. “I looked in the mirror and a voice said, ‘What do you see?’ I said I saw a victim. That same voice whispered back to me and said, ‘I see a victor.’”
Holm founded the nonprofit organization Steel Hope in 2013 with the help of his wife, who is the CEO.
With the motto “Our Heart Beats for Others,” Steel Hope has several programs dedicated to helping others. The nonprofit’s mission is to build, equip and empower others to be people who will continually BE STEEL — Believe, Expand, Stand, Transform, Encourage, Enlighten and Love around the world.
Originally from Arkansas, Holm made his way through the Fort Worth area and now resides in Mineral Wells.
Holm’s story has inspired many all over the world as a motivational speaker and life coach, including Weatherford resident and Kangaroo Towing owner Robert Crutsinger.
Crutsinger launched Operation Texas Strong 2021 in January and as someone who overcame his own struggles, is now dedicated to helping homeless veterans alongside his family.
“What inspired me was when I gave a three-time war veteran a 45-foot bumper pull travel trailer that was donated by a friend of mine,” Crutsinger said. “Just hearing all the stories about what he went through, I just felt like all veterans should have a home to call theirs, and just that feeling inspired me to launch the program.”
Crutsinger said for the last five years he had been giving homeless veterans tents and food, so it was natural to take it a step further and begin the process of becoming a 501c3 nonprofit.
“I’ve found a really good friendship with Bobby and have been able to coach him and Peggy, and they’ve been able to help me and Crystal with some struggles and stuff that we’re going through because we’re all growing together,” Holm said.
With the help of his wife, Peggy, and children, Crutsinger has helped 42 veterans so far, providing 37 with donated RVs to reside in. Crutsinger said they’ve received donations from all over the country.
“We’re here to get the veterans off the street,” Crutsinger said. “They deserve better.”
Both Crutsinger and Holm have goals of building a community/retreat for those they’re helping and with the purchase of a ranch house on nine acres in Mineral Wells, Holm is making that dream come true.
“What we’re calling it is Project Freedom and it’s going to be the creation of Steel Freedom Ranch, which is a place to recover, rediscover and rebuild your life one step at a time,” Holm said. “I don’t think there’s a more perfect time than going through the residuals of this pandemic and just tragedies all around us. It’s almost like we bought this place for such a time as this.”
Crutsinger said his goal is to first get 40 acres in his first phase but eventually purchase 150 acres between Weatherford and Mineral Wells for a community.
“I want other towns to do the same thing I’m doing because it’s a good feeling,” he said. “I don’t have much, I have a great life and a great family, and I work hard for everything I have. I want the veterans to see that. I want them to know there are ways they can change their life.”
Operation Texas Strong 2021 will host a Veteran's Appreciation Day benefit from 3-7 p.m. on May 29 at Hidden Acres Ranch, 4850 E. Bankhead Highway.
Steel Hope and Operation Texas Strong 2021 are accepting donations. Both organizations have Facebook pages with contact information and Steel Hope has a website at steelhope.org.