Family of tornado victim to build home for injured soldier - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Team Andrew: Family of tornado victim to build home for injured soldier

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At left, Andrew and Tori Smith at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Wilson was injured in a 2008 tornado that hit Union University At left, Andrew and Tori Smith at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Wilson was injured in a 2008 tornado that hit Union University

HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - It's been four years since David Wilson was nearly buried alive.

An EF-4 tornado ripped through his college campus in Jackson, Tennessee.

Firefighters spent hours digging David out of the rubble left on Union University campus.

"The next morning, when he woke up, he couldn't move anything below the waist," recalled Mark Wilson, David's dad.

David, who's legs were crushed, underwent surgery and intense physical therapy just to be able to walk again.

"I can do pretty much everything that I could before, except I can't run as fast," said David, sitting on the couch at his family's Ooltewah home.

"The scars are there," said Mark Wilson, referring to the marks left on his son's legs, "but we saw a sign one day that said it best - scars are like tattoos, they just have better stories behind them."

Now the Wilson family is adding a new chapter to their book of incredible stories.

"We're going to build a house in a week," boasted Mark, smiling from ear to ear.

Mark Wilson is launching a foundation, called Steps2Hope, to help young people who experience life-altering injuries.

His first project will be to build a home for Andrew and Tori Smith.

Andrew, also from Ooltewah, lost both legs when he stepped on an IED, while on patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Mark says when he heard Andrew's story, he felt led to reach out to his parents.

"They were kind of living the same trauma that we had, in obviously different ways, but I knew the pain was the same," he said.

"It teaches you a lot about paying it forward kind of thing," said Andrew's father, Todd Smith.

"To have a group of people that wants to do this for them, it's just humbling," added Andrew's mom, Cathy.

Mark's goal is to involve as much of the community as he can, to have the house ready when Andrew and Tori return from Walter Reed next year.

"I started crying, and I don't cry a lot," said Tori, in a Skype interview with Channel 3. "I haven't cried through this whole thing, but someone wants to build us a home! They have a vision to gather the entire city of Chattanooga and build us a home!"

"It's incredible. It's the only way to describe it," added Andrew, who is going through intense physical therapy to learn to use prosthetic legs.

Mark says helping the Smith's gives David's injury meaning. David agrees, and hopes others will step up to help pay it forward.

"Come along with us, help this family, and see they will be blessed," said David.

Channel 3 has been invited to be there as TEAM ANDREW unites to build the Smiths a home in a week. Look for continued coverage on-air and online.

The Wilson family will host a kick-off fundraiser at Lindsay Street Hall on September 8th at 6:30 pm.

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