Tommy Norman founded Bridge Home in July of 2011. Mr. Norman has lived most of his life in Charlotte, NC, where his father managed a Navy shell-loading facility during World War II. He joined the Army after graduating from Wake Forest University and served in the Special Forces until 1972. He worked in banking in New York City for three years before returning to Charlotte and starting Norcom Properties, a commercial real-estate firm. In the late 1980s, Tommy and two friends raised more than $350,000 to build a memorial in uptown Charlotte to honor the 101 natives of the city killed in Vietnam.
When a friend, retired Army Col. Kevin McDonnell, director of the U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition, asked for a favor: Could he help a severely wounded Iraqi war Veteran who wanted to move to Charlotte? Tommy didn’t hesitate. “They’ve done everything their country has asked of them.”
Then came another call and another. Norman and his wife, Patty, were soon welcoming Veterans into their home and helping them find jobs or places to live or schools for their children. As the calls kept coming, they quickly realized that the need was far outpacing their efforts. These Veterans needed serious help navigating the system of support for Veterans’ education, employment and healthcare available to them.
With incredible support from the Charlotte business community, the Normans founded Bridge Home. This proved to be no small undertaking. To establish a baseline for the organization’s work, The Foundation for the Carolinas Center for Civic Leadership funded the research and a report which identified the key challenges faced by returning veterans. This report, “Coming Home, Support for Returning Veterans in Charlotte Mecklenburg.” authored in 2012 by Carol Morris, determined that employment was the number one challenge facing returning Veterans, followed by difficulties obtaining disability compensation, accessing healthcare, finding housing and resolving family issues.
Bridge Home then called on various segments of the community to form a network of support for Veterans. “We’re so proud to work with these servicemen and women,” said Norman. It’s a responsibility, but what an opportunity.”
Today, Mr. Norman serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors and continues to be a tireless advocate for giving Veterans an opportunity to serve again, in the civilian world. Together with Bridge Home, Mr. Norman seeks to inspire a movement that extends far beyond Charlotte. “Our hope is that every community in this country will take this approach and have the attitude to say ‘We’re here for you,’” said Norman. “We all have to provide support to make these families as successful as they can be.”