Harry Bologna, a Virginia Beach resident and retired Navy SEAL, lost his legs Oct. 21 when he stepped on a land mine while working as a contractor for a U.S. national defense agency in Afghanistan.
Twelve days later, while Bologna began his long recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, a friend of Bologna’s back in Hampton Roads organized an online fundraiser to help with future medical expenses. The response was swift.
In 11 days, the GoFundMe campaign for Bologna had raised nearly $93,000 from 700 people.
“Many of the supporters have never met or known Harry,” said Scott Adams, a friend of Bologna’s who helped arrange the campaign.
Adams, a regional president for the real estate firm CBRE, said he met Bologna when their daughters played on the same travel volleyball team in Virginia Beach, and has been a friend of his for six years. He has visited Bologna at the hospital and, while he said he is not acting as a spokesman for his friend, Adams said the veteran and his family have been touched by the show of support.
“We’re just trying to lessen their burden and stress,” Adams said. “They’re 100-percent focused on his recovery and all of our love and support goes to them first and foremost.”
Bologna’s service record says he was attached to the East Coast Special Warfare Unit from 1991 to 2011 and that he received numerous awards for his military service, including three Bronze Stars with Valor.
The explosion during his contract work in Afghanistan took both of his legs, broke his pelvis and caused other injuries, according to the summary on the GoFundMe fundraiser.
Adams praised his friend and his family, especially Bologna’s wife, Julie, for their courage. Adams said Bologna wants to reach out and help those who suffered similar injuries after he learns to walk again.
“He’s thankful to be alive and is committed to a full recovery,” Adams said.
Bologna, who turns 48 on Saturday, is being treated at Walter Reed while he attempts to regain some of his strength.
Adams emphasized Bologna’s “no-quit” attitude and said he is dedicated to rehabilitating as best he can. Once Bologna is strong enough, the plan is to transport him in early 2016 to the Center for the Intrepid in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The facility is known for its high quality amputee care and rehabilitation. Adams said Bologna will be fitted with prosthetics and learn how to walk again.
As he looked for ways to help, Adams came up with the idea of “Get Hairy for Harry” as a part of “No-Shave November.” Nine of his employees joined and the 10 of them began raising money to help fund some of Bologna’s medical expenses. Another one of his employees, Elizabeth Gugliotti helped start the GoFundMe page.
Bologna’s family and friends plan to continue to hold additional fundraisers and events beyond the “Get Hairy” effort. All the money raised will go to medical expenses for Bologna, according to Adams. The GoFundMe page says the government has covered all expenses so far, but it says some gaps in coverage are anticipated after Bologna is released from military hospitals and he continues his rehab at home.
More information about Bologna and how to support his cause can be found here.