The image is burned into Eugene Simpson's memory. It's an image of a man standing on the side of a road holding a detonator. It was the day Simpson became paralyzed.
Simpson, 27, was training Iraqi soldiers as an Army staff sergeant in Tikrit. On April 7, he and his caravan were bringing back T-bone steaks for the trainees when the sight of the man stopped them.
Before Simpson could raise his weapon and shoot, the homemade explosive went off. Scrap metal flew into Simpson's back, severing his spine, paralyzing the former Hylton High School quarterback from the waist down.
Now, Simpson has returned to his parents' Dale City home and is living in a new, adapted way. Since he was hospitalized in Washington and Richmond this summer, local military veterans inspired by his story have helped him renovate the three-story, four-bedroom home.
They have widened the doors to accommodate his wheelchair and poured concrete for a sidewalk that leads straight to a bedroom in the basement, so that Simpson doesn't have to climb stairs to the front door.
Yesterday, a group of veterans was scheduled to build a fence in the back yard so that Simpson can keep an eye on his four children while they play the sports he no longer can.
"Instead of trying to chase them in the front yard where the cars will be, I can keep an eye on them a lot easier in the back yard," Simpson said. "If they throw the ball and they go after it, I can't chase them because I am in a wheelchair."
Simpson's four sons -- ages 8, 5, 3 and 1 -- and his wife are in Germany, where he was based before his tour in Iraq. They plan on coming to Virginia next month, he said.
The Woodbridge chapter of the U.S. Military Vets Motorcycle Club has been spearheading the work and providing the labor. Local companies such as Lowe's and Theros Equipment Inc. have donated nails, screws, tools, concrete and even an auger to drill holes for the fencing.
"He's a vet, and he needs help, and nobody else is helping him," said Todd Crosby, president of the Woodbridge chapter, which has nearly 50 members.
Simpson said he still must contend with obstacles in the house, which cannot be adapted entirely. Although the county government has given him a lift that carries him up one flight of stairs, he still has to crawl up another set to take a bath, he said. Getting to the bathrooms upstairs requires him to roll out of his wheelchair and lift himself up each step, a process that Simpson said can take five to seven minutes.
"Some days it's difficult. It's time-consuming and takes a lot of energy out of you," he said.
Simpson said he'll never forget when doctors officially told him he was paralyzed.
"Everything goes through your mind, 100 miles per hour. What are people going to think of me? Am I ever going to walk again? I didn't want to die because I knew I had kids to raise."