Purple Heart recipient Donald Sohler wasn’t sure why a dozen red sweatshirt-clad men were in front of his Coeur d’Alene home on Thursday.
The 30-year-old U.S. Army veteran’s confusion was swiftly quelled, however, when he walked outside, turned and faced his house.
A sizable wreath hung over his garage, and hundreds of colored Christmas lights lined the eaves of the young family’s home, suddenly the most Yuletide-spirited on the block.
Christmas Decor, a holiday lights company, teamed up with Senske Services to decorate the Sohlers’ home free of charge as part of the Decorated Family Program, aimed at thanking military servicemen and -women.
“Wait until the kids see this,” a smiling Sohler told his wife, Courtney, who had kept the free decoration a secret from her husband until the lights were up.
The Sohlers’ home was donated to them by a Vietnam war veteran earlier in the year, they said, and they have been overjoyed by the outreach of support they’ve received.
Donald Sohler, a soft-spoken father of two, was quick to mention that other veterans haven’t been as fortunate.
“I had family in the Vietnam war, and they weren’t treated like this when they came home,” he said. “So things like this mean a lot.”
Ten Christmases ago, life was much different for the Lake City High School graduate.
On Dec. 26, 2007, 19 years old and stationed in Iraq, he was shot seven times by a member of the Taliban dressed as an Iraqi soldier, his wife said.
Two bullets went through his left leg and one through his arm, she said, severely injuring both limbs. The other four bullets hit him in the back of his bullet-proof vest, she said, which herniated several discs.
Other soldiers died in the ambush, Courtney said, and Sohler nearly lost his leg and arm. He faces daily physical challenges as a result of the wounds.
Because of his injuries, she said, their family never had a full Christmas lights display until Thursday.
“I was maybe going to put some lights inside the windows and maybe a little bit of garland or a wreath on the door and call it a day,” Courtney said. “But this is amazing. I’m thrilled.”
Clyde Heath, the branch manager of Senske Services of Coeur d’Alene, was happy he and his men could do the labor for a man he deems a hero.
It took the Senske team about three hours to complete the job.
“To come out here and get to do this for a veteran and his family is a great thing,” Heath said. “And we were all happy to come out here and do it.”