Army veteran Josh Bullis is too young to have to be put back together. At age 22, he should worry about finding a good tattoo parlor, not whether his new house has a roll-in shower for a wheelchair.
Fortunately for Bullis, through the charitable work of Minnesota Vikings star Jared Allen(notes), some of Bullis' concerns have been alleviated. Through Allen's "Homes for Wounded Warriors" program, Bullis is the latest veteran to get some assistance in life as a triple amputee.
"It's more like the mental aspect, this allows me to be independent and feel independent again," said Bullis, who lost both legs and his left arm when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in September 2010. "It makes me feel like I haven't lost as much."
Bullis officially left the Army in October after more than a year of surgeries and rehabilitation. While Bullis took advantage of the foreclosure market to buy his home in Peoria, Ariz., there were still plenty of costs to retrofit the house for his needs. Aside from the shower, wider doorways, lowered countertops and ramps were needed around the house.
"I have a roommate, but this is about being able to function and really feel like this is my own place, my own life," Bullis said. That life includes working at his uncle Brian's sign company, planning to attend college and enjoying a drive through the mountains from Phoenix to Flagstaff on his way to a tattoo appointment.
To Allen, who lives in nearby Phoenix in the offseason, it's a small gesture. Bullis is the second veteran Allen and the other donors to his program have helped.
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"The whole mantra of this project is that when you come home, that's when you need to feel the safest, the most comfortable to just be yourself and let your hair down," said Allen, who did a USO tour in Iraq and Kuwait in 2008. "Your home, that's your security blanket, where you can be safe and secure. Obviously, the greatest sacrifice any soldier can make is to give up your life. But in some ways, when you come back with missing limbs, you've made a greater sacrifice. You're not able to do the things you wanted to do before, that you thought you were going to be able to do.
"With this program, we're trying to give veterans who have had a significant loss something back to ease the burden. These guys are fighting to keep me and the rest of us safe. It's the least I can do."
Beyond the program, Allen had Bullis visit the Vikings earlier this season when they played in San Diego. Bullis sat in the team meeting and met with numerous players. Allen has also introduced him to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald(notes), one of Allen's closest friends in the NFL.
"I think Josh was a little surprised with how much the players really look up to him, how much respect we have for the guys who lay it on the line like that," Allen said. "We're big, tough men, but we recognize what guys like Josh really do. I think that made Josh feel a little better. Just a little."
Just getting a call from Allen was enough for Bullis. "It was last summer and I almost fell down in shock," he said.
Bullis is learning to walk again with the help of prosthetic legs. He still uses a wheelchair most of the time because he has yet to master things like balance and turning.
"It's like you're re-learning how to walk, how to stand up, how to do the simplest things," Bullis said. "Really, the hardest part was at first. Missing three limbs, it was the mental stuff, wondering what was I going to do, how I was going to take care of myself.
"This program, that's taken away a lot of concerns. It's making life so much easier. My plan was to spend 20 years in the Army. That's not going to happen now. I never regretted serving, even after the accident. I had a dangerous job. You always know the risk and fear. Everybody knows something can happen in an instant."
Now, Bullis is getting some help to deal with the rest of his life.
• After reading the 23-page grand jury report regarding the Penn State child molestation case, I can't help but keep comparing this case to what happened with Michael Vick(notes) in terms of a staggering fall from grace for a prominent sportsman and public figure. The difference is that while what Vick did left me disappointed, the complete lack of leadership by former Penn State coach Joe Paterno leaves me shaking with anger.
By himself, Paterno could have used his vast power at the school to make sure the alleged vile behavior of Jerry Sandusky ended more than a decade ago. Instead, he stood idly by and made it somebody else's problem. For those who claim Paterno followed some inane protocol and is therefore blameless, you just don't get it. Paterno is not alone in the long list of people who failed to protect these young boys, but he's at the top of the list. There is no person at Penn State who has ever been in a more powerful position of leadership than Paterno. There is no person who has ever done more to teach leadership at Penn State than Paterno. Men like Paterno are supposed to protect the defenseless. Yet, at the moment when young boys needed his leadership and protection the most, Paterno was nowhere. And he was nowhere for almost decade, if not longer. It's disgusting.
• On a much lighter note regarding leadership, players from Baltimore and the New York Giants showed their excitement at their victories last Sunday by going a little overboard with their coaches. In Pittsburgh, Baltimore gave John Harbaugh a Gatorade shower and Harbaugh talked in a tone befitting a playoff victory. In New England, the Giants carried Tom Coughlin off the field.
These were both big victories. However, I always get uncomfortable when teams celebrate so much after regular-season wins. Sure, there are some moments where it fits, such as breaking a long losing streak against a tough opponent or setting some type of record or getting into the playoffs. Neither of these games fit those characterizations.
They were intense games that had some greater meaning in the overall sense of the season, but the victories weren't worth celebrations that usually come along with a significant achievement. Hopefully this is not some sign that either of these teams is satisfied with what they've done after only half a season.
1. Green Bay Packers (8-0): The Packers' defense alternates between sensational and dreadful from play to play. It's stunning.
2. San Francisco 49ers (7-1): The 49ers-Giants game is an intriguing matchup of styles. Both teams love to play physical.
3. Baltimore Ravens (6-2): I'm still not 100 percent sold on QB Joe Flacco(notes), but I do love seeing him throw the deep ball.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3): Steelers better sweep the Bengals over the next four games. Otherwise, the playoffs get dicey.
5. New York Giants (6-2): Some thought Giants reached on DE Jason Pierre-Paul(notes) at No. 15. Now, he looks like a steal.
28. Arizona Cardinals (2-6): If there's a silver lining to this ranking, at least the Cardinals are the second-best team in the NFC West.
29. Seattle Seahawks (2-6): Dear Seahawks fans, that playoff appearance is going to look more and more like an aberration soon.
30. St. Louis Rams (1-7): Sam Bradford(notes) is getting sacked roughly once every 10 dropbacks. That better change drastically in second half.
31. Miami Dolphins (1-7): As Rosie Perez said, sometimes when you win, you actually lose. On that alone, she should be the GM.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-9): Man, all it takes is one bad season to get infighting going on a team. That said, the roster is a mess
• Congrats to Arizona rookie Patrick Peterson(notes) for his game-winning, 99-yard punt return last Sunday against St. Louis. It's a return he shouldn't have made. The common logic on punt returns is that a return man shouldn't touch a ball once it gets inside the 5-yard line, let along try to return it. The odds favor the ball rolling into the end zone for a touchback or something going wrong (like a fumble) than a return man advancing the football to the 20-yard line or beyond. Then again, sometimes things work out great when you don't follow the rules and this is one of those moments.
• With defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth(notes) gone, there's now more attention for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco(notes), New England's other big offseason acquisition. Ochocinco has taken a lot of criticism for his failure to be more involved in the offense, but here's a hunch that things could change soon. On Sunday against the New York Giants, Ochocinco was targeted five times. Although he finished with zero catches for the third straight game, quarterback Tom Brady(notes) obviously realizes he has to get the ball to Ochocinco, particularly with wide receiver Deion Branch(notes) struggling (six catches for 57 yards the past two games). Don't be surprised if Ochocinco finally gets more involved in the attack.
• Having mentioned Haynesworth, the pickup by Tampa Bay was hardly surprising. Between the season-ending injury to fellow defensive tackle Gerald McCoy(notes) and the Bucs' previous interest in Haynesworth (they tried to sign him as a free agent in 2009 when he ultimately went to Washington), this was logical. The problem is that Haynesworth couldn't have bottomed out any worse than he already has by getting cut in New England. Or as one person close to him said earlier this season, "If Albert can't make it happen in New England, he's not going to make it anywhere." However, he will get plenty of chances.
• Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo continues to be a mess. Over the course of the season, the Eagles have allowed 182 points. They have allowed the most points (60) in the fourth quarter, the opposite what the team was expecting. Castillo, who was warned by two people that he wasn't ready to become the coordinator after spending his career with the Eagles as offensive line coach, has continually failed to make proper adjustments. "He's gotten a little better at calling the defense early in the game, but he has no way to anticipate adjustments," one scout said.