Veteran camps out at mall to help other veterans

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Mall at Barnes Crossing became a veteran’s house for a week, so other veterans could get better houses.
Tupelo resident Scott Burns, 41, a disabled veteran, camped at the food court for seven days to raise money for Purple Heart Homes.
“I have a bed under the stage and a little office area,” Burns said Wednesday, his last day at the mall.
Thanks to his efforts, people have donated more than $43,000 to the program over the past seven years. This year’s total was more than $7,500.
“It makes it a lot easier to sleep out here when the money comes in,” he said.
He entertained mall visitors and gave out prizes to people who donated. One woman won an American flag, which turned out to be a special moment for her.
“I found out her husband had just left for his third tour in Afghanistan,” he said.
Burns, a Tupelo disc jockey, was injured while serving in the Marines and later had his left leg amputated. The money he raised will support other disabled veterans.
Garrett Garland, vice chairman of Purple Heart Homes’ board of directors, said the organization modifies homes to make them wheelchair accessible, and also helps disabled veterans buy homes.
Mitch Beard, 56, of Tupelo, is a Marine veteran who injured both knees when he jumped off a tank. The injury has gotten worse over the years.
“I was waiting a couple of years for Veterans Administration grants,” he said. “I filled out applications with (Purple Heart Homes) in March. By May, I was approved.”
He’ll be the group’s first Mississippi-based veteran. The doors to his house will be widened, his bathroom will be made accessible and he’ll get a wheelchair ramp.
“It’ll cost $20,000 to $30,000 to redo the house,” he said.
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