Category Archives: Operation Opening Doors

Media Links

Fort Hood Sentinel

Army takes 9 medals in cycling at DoD Warrior Games

DVIDS–Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System

Army cyclists roll their way to the podium

Video: Cycling – U.S. Army Veteran Sean Johnson – 2015 Warrior Games

Video: 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games WTC Version


Connecticut Woman Creates Non-Profit to Help Military Caregivers

Washington Times

Wounded Warrior Caregiving Hero: Meet Melissa Johnson

Warrior Care Com

2014 Warrior Games–Cycling Competition

DOD News

Competing at the Warrior Games

Argus Leader

Warrior Games keep blind vet in touch with Army

Aberdeen American News

Aberdeen man riding into history

Warrior Games possible in Aberdeen veteran’s future

Local veteran to compete in Warrior Games this fall

DVIDS–Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System

Staff Sgt. Sean Johnson – 2014 Warrior Games

‘You may be Wounded, Ill or Injured but You’re not Defeated,’ tandem cyclist says at US Army Warrior Trials

Vision impairment won’t stop wounded veteran at Warrior Games Trials

Rapid City Journal

Injury gives snowboarder new purpose

JOHNSON: Recognizing Military and Veterans Caregiver Month

The Daily Plainsman

Spirit of Dakota announces nominees

Finding help at home: Melissa came home, to help Sean come back home

Aberdeen American News

Aberdeen woman selected for Elizabeth Dole Fellows program

Local veterans protest moving county services


Purple Heart Recipient Has Home Remodeled

Soldiers Magazine

The Depths of Love:  Chronicling the Journey from Army Spouse to Caregiver

Story by:  Elizabeth M. Collins, Soldiers Live

Bonus Blog by Brannan Vines:  What I Wish I’d Known When I Started Life as a Caregiver

To The Point

The Soldiers Who Are Making it Home

with host Warren Olney on  KCRW Radio

On Memorial Day, Americans honor those who have died serving their country, but what about those who’ve survived? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have the lowest casualty rates of all American conflicts. More than 95% of the wounded are coming home. Many have survived injuries that were deadly in previous wars, but they’ve been left with life-long conditions requiring high-tech medical care. Can the Veterans’ Administration cope with unexpected numbers and very high costs? What about loved ones who’ve become caregivers full time?

CBS News

Story by: Michelle Miller

Caregivers of US Veterans Bear Scars of War

Treating Family Members Suffering from PTSD

Story by: Heather Sweeney and Ward Carroll

Challenges Remain in Warrior Transition Units

Aberdeen American News

Group working to modify disabled vet’s home in Aberdeen

Six years after injury, Aberdeen soldier awarded Purple Heart

The Daily Plainsman

Local family joins nationwide campaign:  Love letters tell stories of life after combat

Poorly Networked Systems Leave Vets on Their Own When Seeking Care

Story by:  Bob Brewin

Instant Replay

I was asked recently if it was hard to keep up with a blog…my answer was no, not if you only write one post a year 😦  Oh my goodness I’ve been slacking. I’m going to post highlights and a couple newsy pieces from the past year and call it good.

1. Cancun, Mexico


2. Phase 1 of the RAND study on Military Caregivers was released

3. Bike Camp in Colorado


4. In May 2013, Sean traveled to England with other members of the Blinded Veterans Association as part of Project Gemini for an educational exchange to share knowledge, insights, and friendship with their British comrades. Project Gemini is a joint effort of Blind Veterans UK of London, England, and the BVA. Melissa tagged along and spent the week touring London and Edinburgh, Scotland with her good friend Lou.

IMG_5562IMG_5382  IMG_5356


5. In June Sean became the Commander of VFW Post 17.

6. Horses for Heroes Challenge Aspen C.A.M.O.


7. Operation Opening Doors home remodel was completed in August.  The main floor is completely handicap-accessible with an enlarged bathroom (including walk-in shower) and new kitchen.

OOD Ceremony Ribbon 5DSC_1128

Governor and Mrs. Daugaard attended our open house

Governor and Mrs. Daugaard attended our open house

8. Melissa attended The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit in DC to watch her dear friend and mentor (and boss) speak about Families on the Frontlines.  Watch it here:

Brannan Vines, Senator Elizabeth Dole, and Melissa

Brannan Vines, Senator Elizabeth Dole, and Melissa

9. Melissa had the opportunity to speak before several groups this year including the South Dakota American Legion Auxiliary, SD RehabACTion State Conference, the Sioux Falls VA Family Caregivers Month Event, and a Veterans Day presentation at the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.


10. Sean went on his annual David Feherty IED pheasant hunt with Sons of Southfork.


11. Melissa attended the 2013 National Summit at the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving with friends and coworkers Steffanie and Brannan.


12. Sean’s tandem bike *finally* arrived!!  Now if we only had decent weather outside so he could ride.

Medical retirement update:  In January 2013 we were informed that Sean’s records had not yet been received at Ft. McCoy (shipped from Ft. Riley in June 2012).  The records were located in February 2013 and sent to Ft. Carson.  The army required Sean to undergo multiple physical and mental health examinations (because all those he had done previously had expired).  The final evaluation was completed in May 2013.  Records were sent to the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) in June.  In December 2013 we received what should be the final stack of paperwork to review and sign.  Fingers crossed he should be medically retired by the end of January!  (Yes, I’m counting my chickens…)

Operation Opening Doors

We have received the most amazing, incredible, extraordinary, unbelieveable blessing!!  Operation Opening Doors of South Dakota, in partnership with Associated General Contractors South Dakota Building Chapter and JDH Construction, has chosen our home for a remodel!  This remodel will make our home more accessible and safe for Sean and will incorporate features to assist him in his day to day living.  We are THRILLED to be a part of this magnificent project!

Broke gound October 30th

Follow the links to learn more.

Operation Opening Doors Kicks off Eighth Project in South Dakota

Operation Opening Doors–Project Page on Facebook

Contractors Lending a Hand to Veterans

Group working to modify disabled vet’s home in Aberdeen

By Scott Waltman
After a career of serving his community and his country, it’s now Sean Johnson’s turn to be served.
Johnson used to work for Aberdeen Fire and Rescue and spent 23 years in the U.S. Army Reserve’s Aberdeen-based 452nd Ordnance Co. In March 2006, while he was deployed in Iraq, a mortar shell exploded next to him. The blast resulted in a traumatic brain injury that ultimately left Johnson blind. Now, a group called Operation Opening Doors is raising money to renovate Johnson’s home in Aberdeen to make it easier for him to get around.
Operation Opening Doors is a nonprofit arm of the Associated General Contractors South Dakota Building Chapter that focuses on renovating or building new homes for veterans who were disabled while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Johnson’s house is the group’s eighth project in the state and its first in Aberdeen.
Plans call for work on Johnson’s house to begin yet this fall. The project will cost an estimated $106,000 with that total including donated time, equipment and materials, said Michelle Lounsbery, executive director of the Associated General Contractors of South Dakota Building Chapter. She said that more than $30,000 has already been raised.
During a kickoff program for the project Tuesday night at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, Johnson said he and his wife, Melissa, are grateful and humble by the community support. Having a home that’s more accessible will he helpful, he said.
Earlier this year, Johnson was awarded the Purple Heart at a ceremony in Aberdeen.

Lounsbery said a new, larger bathroom with a walk-in shower and other features will be built in an addition to the home. And, she said, the area in the existing home that is now the bathroom and bedroom area will be converted into an expanded, larger bedroom.
Les Cummings of Sioux Falls is the retired state command sergeant major of the South Dakota Army National Guard. He founded Operation Opening Doors about a decade ago. He said the program went broke in trying to do its first couple of home improvement projects. That’s when it partnered with the Associated General Contractors of South Dakota, he said.
More recently, Operation Opening Doors has teamed up with the Associated General Contractors of America, Cummings said. Together, they have built new homes for or made improvements to the homes of 27 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have disabilities, he said.
JDH Construction of Aberdeen is the lead contractor on the Johnson project. But subcontractors willing to do anything from work on cupboards to putting in plumbing are still needed, Cummings said.
He said he and Johnson have known each other for years. When they were visiting at a veterans hunt, Cummings said Johnson noted that it would be helpful if he had more room in his home’s bathroom and bedroom. That’s how the project got on Operation Opening Doors’ radar.
“It’s amazing to watch the tears flow down a family’s face when you go to them and say we are willing to support you and thank you for your service,” Cummings said.
Donations to the Operation Opening Doors Aberdeen project to renovate the Johnsons’ home can be dropped off at or mailed to Plains Commerce Bank; 524 S. Dakota St.; Aberdeen, SD 57401.
Copyright © 2012, Aberdeen News