PO2 Timothy Birckhead
Mullica Hill, NJ
Mission Accomplished on July 17, 2017
Timothy Birckhead enlisted in the Navy shortly after graduating from the Bodine High School for International Affairs in Philadelphia in 2000. After serving three years and sailing overseas on the USS Iwo Jima as an air-launched weapons technician, Navy PO2 Birckhead knew he had found a career he loved, and extended his tour of duty.
During his second tour in 2006, Timothy began experiencing pain and weakness in his legs, making walking and running difficult. After consulting with the Navy’s medical unit and weeks of physical therapy, he found no relief or improvement. As a former athlete in high school and a runner on the track team, P02 Birckhead knew that his health was failing when he was not able to pass the Navy’s physical readiness test. Sadly, in October 2007, Timothy was forced to separate from the Navy, relinquishing the job and teammates he had come to love so much over his seven years of service.
In October 2009, two years after Timothy’s military separation, doctors eventually diagnosed him with Hereditary Neuropathy with Liability to Pressure Palsies (HNPP), a condition that affects the sensory and motor nerves. Tim’s case is progressive, and he now has increasing weakness and atrophy in his limbs.
Timothy lives with his mother, Gloria, his primary caretaker, in his specially adapted Homes For Our Troops home. Although Gloria says it is heartbreaking to watch Tim’s health decline, she says her son inspires her every day with his positive attitude and perseverance. “This home gives Tim quality of life beyond measure,” says Gloria. “It is a blessing for him to do things on his own and set goals.”
The home Tim previously lived in presented several challenges, stairs being the most difficult. Tim describes the feeling of entering and exiting his former home’s stairs similar to that of stage fright; he says having automatic doors and a level doorway removes this worry and empowers him to go outdoors more often. His home from HFOT allows him to have full mobility in his wheelchair, which he now uses most of the day. Above all, Tim is happy to have more space in his home to play board games, watch TV and play video games with his daughter Tamyja.
Tim and Gloria choose to live in Mullica Hill, N.J., to stay close to family and the network of support they have at the Bible Way Baptist Church. Together they rely on faith and prayer to overcome their everyday challenges, and say they now have a renewed sense of gratitude in life since they have been welcomed into the Homes For Our Troops family. They say the support they have received has been humbling, and reminds them that America has not forgotten the men and women who have stepped up to serve their country.
“Your gift of love is one that will last a lifetime,” says Tim. “May you know the joy you have given to so many. You are our angels that continue to watch over us – thanks for caring and loving us.”