From the client side of the desk, Gregory Von-Dollen is just another smiling face sitting at the Multi-Agency Resource Center located at Westmoore High School in Moore, Oklahoma.
Von-Dollen, an Oklahoma native, was out of state when tornadoes touched down in May. But he knew he had to help.
“The whole purpose was for me to come out and help my community. Since being wounded it has become my sense of duty to return that service the community has given me,” Von-Dollen explains.
In October of 2009 Von-Dollen joined the United States Army. Thirteen months later he was involved in a motorcycle accident which severely injured his left leg. He broke his hip, received 2-3 fractures in his femur and 25+ breaks in his tibia. He underwent two years of limb salvage, but in June of 2012 an amputation was performed, due to building blood clots in his leg.
Von-Dollen prevailed. He has stayed active duty with the United States Army and is currently receiving treatment at WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion), Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Specialist Von-Dollen knows what it means to be Army Strong; he also knows what it means to be Oklahoma Strong.
“People don’t understand the resiliency Oklahoma has – don’t seem to understand the spirit people here have,” he explains.
When Von-Dollen’s leg was amputated he was pushed to get back in the saddle.
“I’ve been skydiving, rock climbing, fishing, bowling, SCUBA diving and gone on multiple hunting trips,” he says. He’s also taken up hand cycling – and logged his longest ride at 25 miles.
For those stopping by Spc. Von-Dollen’s spot at The Salvation Army’s table, a genuine smile is a welcomed one.
“A lot of people are still at the point of not wanting to share. One woman wasn’t home but her son was. He dove into a small closet and after the tornado passed by a neighbor stopped by and heard him screaming. The neighbor broke through the sheetrock and helped him out,” he says.
Von-Dollen plans to volunteer with The Salvation Army for four days. He looks forward to finishing his leave by spending time with family before returning to Texas.