Loudoun County

Virginia Community Rallies Around Veteran After House Fire

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A community is coming together to help a Loudoun County Army veteran who’s been through one tragedy after another.

Vainuupo Avegalio served five tours overseas, leaving him with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s lost several military friends.

“Many of them were committing suicide so,” he said.

“And I was well on my way in that direction, too,” he added.

Art therapy saved him, and he wanted to use it to help others. He traveled the country holding therapy workshops, but during that time, he was homeless, living out of his car.

Nonprofit Hero Homes builds free houses for disabled veterans in Loudoun County. In May, they built a house in Purcellville for Avegalio.

“We felt that getting him a house would help him expand that mission to serve others,” Hero Homes founder Jason Brownell said.

“All of a sudden I had keys in my hands, and it was like the best feeling in the world,” Avegalio said. “I had a place to stay for the first time in a couple years.”

But this week, much of it was destroyed in a kitchen fire that sent his dogs and two dogs he was watching for a friend to the hospital.

“I got to the house and I saw my dogs,” he said. “And my dogs are everything to me.”

He owes $28,000 in veterinary bills. Neighbors are trying to help him raise the money.

“I’m really thankful for all the people that reached out,” Avegalio said.

Hero Homes said they’ll help oversee the repairs.

The Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Department believes the fire was sparked by a broken appliance on the kitchen counter.

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