COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) – They called it “Operation Burn Scar.”
When Zach Smith’s neighbor told him about a Colorado veteran in danger of being evicted because of code violations, he knew he had to do something.
“When I got up there, I was like ‘Man, this was a lot more than you and I, or just a small handful of volunteers can accomplish,'” Smith told FOX31.
Eight years ago, during the massive Black Forest Fire east of Colorado Springs, the Vietnam-era veteran lost 10 acres to the blaze. Some 300 of his trees were destroyed, and he lost valuables too.
“He lost like a woodshop full of his dad’s old tools, giant bandsaws … they were all smoked in the fire,” Smith said.
The property has remained littered with tons of scrap metal and fallen trees since the fire came through. County code enforcement officials told the owner his property was in violation. Now in his 70s, the property owner has health problems, and could never get the land cleared and up to code by himself. That’s when Smith, an Army veteran who lives in Colorado Springs, did what veterans do. He rallied the troops, put out a call on social media, and organized a massive event to help do something good.
“There was every age group, there was 70 year olds rolling chain saws, there was kids picking up wood. You could leave that place knowing that you did something good for somebody,” Smith said.
Operation Burn Scar was carried out on Aug. 28. The dozens of volunteers hauled away more than 20 tons of scrap metal, cut down 150 trees and cleared another 150 fallen trees. More than that, they gave help and hope to a veteran in need.
“At the end of the day, you could tell, like his whole demeanor changed. That this many people would come out and help an older gentleman and not get paid for it, and just do it out of the kindness of their heart was mind blowing for this guy.”
Smith doesn’t yet know what he’ll do with the award money, but he says he’ll do something good with it. It’s clear, he has a track record of doing that.
“Veterans answer the call, you know? We answered the call with multiple wars and attacks against our country. So something stateside like this, especially an older gentleman that served in the Vietnam era? All he had to do was say help, and that’s what we did,” Smith said.
To nominate a veteran, active duty service member, military family member or volunteer for our Hero of the Month honors, visit the Serving Those Who Serve nomination page.