Guardsman who went from hero to homeless during flood, hospitalized in ATV crash

Ashley Rodrigue talks about a guardsman who lost his home in a flood and was seriously hurt in an ATV accident.

ST. TAMMANY, La. --  When Eyewitness News last visited with the Smith family of Hammond, they were getting unexpected help gutting their home, which had flooded in the area's August storms.

The damage was their second bout with water last year, both times while Justin Smith's focus was on helping others as a member of the Louisiana Army National Guard.  Our cameras actually caught him in the middle of a water rescue during live coverage.

The surprise helping hands seemed to be the beginning of the end of the bad luck for the couple and their two toddlers.  Just before Christmas, the Smiths moved into their dream home and property in Franklinton.

But two weeks ago, the roller coaster headed down another steep valley following a serious ATV accident.  Smith says her husband was out with friends when he drove over an unchecked hill that was actually a drop-off.  The four-wheeler pulled him over the edge, then landed on him.

"He's got pins, plates, screws," said Misty, "His whole entire left leg is being held together with metal right now."

That's in addition to fractured ribs and a still undiagnosed shoulder injury, all being treated in an ICU at a Gulfport hospital.

"It feels like a nightmare," she said. "I just feel I need to be pinched because, after everything we've already been through, I can't believe this has happened to us."

Just as in the past, the Smiths are finding themselves being embraced by their community. In particular, their military family has stepped up with meals, transportation assistance - even opening a nationwide federal leave donation program that allows any federal employee to offer any extra leave they have toward Justin's recovery. However, Misty remains concerned because of the family's $14,000 out-of-pocket medical premium, and brand new mortgage.

"I'm scared to death that I'm going to have to rip my kids from another house," she said.

Family friends, who have set up a GoFundMe account, are determined not to let that happen and they're hoping others in the community commit to the same.

Justin came out of his seventh surgery Monday afternoon and is scheduled for another Tuesday, March 7.  He has received five units of blood to date, with more needed. Contact Suzy Strouse at The Blood Center (504-939-9609, spotter@thebloodcenter.org) to set up a blood drive or make a blood donation for Justin.

If you'd like to help the Smith's, click here: https://www.gofundme.com/national-guard-hero-needs-our-help.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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