Veteran Graham

Vietnam veteran William Graham sits next to a photo of himself and his wife, Sherry, who died from lung and liver cancer.

There’s a lot to admire about Robert Griffin III, Chip and Joanna Gaines and some of their friends. Exhibit A: Recently Griffin’s Family of 3 Foundation, along with some help from area businesses and individuals who donated materials and labor, teamed up with Waco’s HGTV “Fixer Upper” couple Joanna and Chip to remodel the home of a disabled Vietnam veteran and his wife.

The popular “Fixer Upper” show portrays the couple working together on various remodeling projects throughout the Waco area. Viewers are entertained by Baylor grads Chip and Joanna’s feisty, cooperative teamwork, so pivotal on their hit reality TV show. Joanna is the imaginative designer and flea-market shopper extraordinaire; Chip brings her design ideas to fruition with his prodigious construction skills.

Since his successful days as Baylor’s Heisman Trophy star quarterback, RG3 — Copperas Cove High School grad and NFL quarterback for the Cleveland Browns — has remained a positive role model for us, even though his NFL career has been hampered by injuries. Some argue that those injuries are won through his sheer persistence and resolve on the field.

A year ago, a televised promotion for Griffin’s Family of 3 charity fundraiser for a disabled Vietnam veteran announced it was partnering with Paralyzed Veterans of America, prompting me to email Family of 3. I also left a message on RG3’s Facebook page since I knew he was a Christian. Did RG3 and his charity director know the PVA was listed on the American Life League (all.org) list as a charity that supported embryonic stem-cell research? (Life Decisions International reports PVA also supports abortion.) And did they know that PVA received Charity Navigator’s dismal zero stars rating for financial stewardship?

Apparently not. I received a swift reply from Will Mallow, executive director of Family of 3, who thanked me for notifying him. He told me he would investigate PVA further and that no funds from the Family of 3’s fundraiser would be granted to PVA. That’s a good thing since several pro-life, fiscally responsible charities that serve veterans can be located through careful research. Soon after Mr. Mallow’s email reply, RG3 himself appeared on television to announce that the money raised would go to benefit a specific veteran and his family and to no one else.

Then on May 30 a story in the Tribune-Herald described how the Family of 3 Foundation was remodeling the home of Vietnam veteran William Graham to accommodate his health problems. And on Jan. 11 “Fixer Upper” episode 5 this season showcased the finished remodeled home of Bill Graham and his wife Sherry, married 45 years. They were delighted with their remodeled house!

Mr. Graham is disabled with prostate cancer and stenosis of the spine due to Agent Orange exposure and Mrs. Graham suffered from lung and liver cancer. KWTX’s Jan. 13 televised newscast reported that Family of 3 had partnered with the “Fixer Upper” stars to remodel the house for the couple to accommodate their disabilities.

Sadly, Mrs. Graham only lived in the house for two months before she passed away. She didn’t see the episode when it aired. But her husband talked about how much she loved her house and how grateful she was. RG3 visited her in the hospital before she returned home to live in it.

“It’s such a blessing to be able to help Mr. Graham and his amazing family,“ he said.

The KWTX report, still accessible on the station’s website (“‘Fixer Upper’ episode was bittersweet for local veteran”), is hard to watch since Mr. Graham was still mourning for Sherry and his grief is contagious. But what’s also evident is how appreciative he and Sherry were to be chosen for this Family of 3 project and the “Fixer Upper” limelight.

In the highly unlikely event celebrities RG3 and the “Fixer Upper” couple were to ask an unimportant person like me for help with brainstorming project ideas to facilitate raising revenue for charities and also for attracting tourist dollars, I offer the following:

  • Designing and constructing an area near the river similar to Key West’s Mallory Square offering kiosks, stages, food carts, platforms and bungee jumps for musicians, street preachers, poets, artists, mimes, acrobats, magicians, tightrope walkers, jugglers, animal trainers, drone races and robot competitions to attract tourists and locals for profit and nonprofit events and bleachers for watching competitions such as boat races.
  • Refurbishing old national or state park forest-ranger lookout towers to construct zip lines across the river.
  • Refurbishing an old cable car and linking it from the south side of the river to McLane Stadium to connect to its parking lot for a “red-carpet Hollywood premiere” style landing as a classy alternative to the foot bridge. It might attract wealthy tourists attending games for a leisurely ride that offered cocktails and a big screen TV.
  • Constructing a challenging obstacle course to attract athletes and tourists for competitions similar to Steve Austin’s reality TV show “Broken Skull.”
  • Refurbishing an old roller coaster and a giant Ferris wheel for a permanent installation at a location such as Lions Park to offer kids and adults exciting rides.
  • Converting the old swimming pool that’s in disrepair at Lions Park into a skate park.
  • Redesigning and remodeling an old playground to accommodate kids with disabilities.
  • Constructing a luge in hilly Cameron Park. See Rick Steve’s YouTube video, “Screaming Down a Bavarian Hillside on a Luge.”

I used to tell my high school students who aspired to be rappers or professional athletes, “Well, you need a Plan B just in case.” In addition to pursuing a NFL career, running a charity, starring in a hit reality TV show, running a construction company, managing Magnolia Silos and Magnolia Homes and raising their families, this talented team of stars somehow manages time to conduct charitable work that benefits Waco area citizens. RG3 and the Fixer Uppers deserve an A-plus for their Plan B charity work!

Mike Miller is a retired teacher and Army veteran who served in Vietnam. He lives in Hewitt.