SANTA ROSA BEACH — Six years ago, as a recipient of a house from the nonprofit Building Homes for Heroes, Staff Sgt. Aaron Hale celebrated his return to a newly renovated, mortgage-free home home.
It had been only a year and a few months earlier that Hale, an EOD technician, was blinded and injured severely in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated.
Now a master chocolatier, the Extra Ordinary Delights’ (E.O.D.) founder, along with his wife, McKayla, will introduce a special screening of their story on the Fox Nation series "Building Homes for Heroes" at The Hub food and entertainment venue at Watersound from 6 to 7 p.m. April 3.
Building Homes for Heroes builds or modifies homes and gives them mortgage-free to veterans injured while serving in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and their families.
Selections from E.O.D. Confections will be for sale at the screening.
In his first enlistment, Hale had been a chef for the admiral and guest dignitaries of the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet. Following the 2011 bomb blast, the 14-year veteran re-engaged his passion for cooking. When neighbors offered to buy more of the surplus sweet treats that McKayla Hale spirited away when her husband baked too much, the couple started their business, called E.O.D. Confections, in a nod to Aaron Hale's fellow explosive ordnance disposal technicians.
In the years since, E.O.D. Confections has grown to a commercial enterprise with corporate clients, online sales and other developments now in the works. The company sells fudge, chocolate confections, candied apples, pecan pie tarts, chocolate- and pecan-caramel-glazed popcorn, sea salt gophers, sea salt caramels, nuts and more.
Hale's military work was portrayed in graphic detail in the film "The Hurt Locker," which dramatized the work of the 760th EOD. Hale estimates that he disabled as many as 50 explosive devices during his last tour.
On Dec. 8, 2011, Hale approached an IED when, at 30 feet away, it detonated and sent shrapnel everywhere. Hale’s facial bones were broken, he had severe burns on his face and upper thighs, a cracked skull and a near-severed carotid artery. He lost his eyesight in the blast.
In recovery, he began running, white water kayaking and mountain climbing. When he returned to Santa Rosa Beach, his injuries reared up, making way for bacterial meningitis. Within inches of losing his life, Hale was completely deaf two weeks later. The dark and silent recovery road was made lighter when Hale distracted himself by baking. He has since regained some of his hearing.
Hale and his wife, married in October 2017, are expecting twins in May, who will join Hale's 8-year-old son from a previous marriage.