A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

TV Shows Fortify Home Base for Decorated Mason Veteran

By Colleen Kearney Rich on September 15, 2014


George Mason University alumnus Mark Little, a former Army captain, knows that service members’ homecomings can be bittersweet. He came home seven years ago after an improvised explosive device (IED) blasted through his Humvee in southern Baghdad and blew off both of his legs below the knee.

Instead of the long military career he once envisioned, the kid who used to dress up as G.I. Joe for Halloween was forced to retire after one deployment.

Mason alumnus Mark Little and his wife, Alicia, were surprised by the HGTV designers of “Cousins Undercover” on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Photo courtesy of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Mason alumnus Mark Little and his wife, Alicia, were surprised by the HGTV designers of “Cousins Undercover” on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Photo courtesy of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

So Little, BA Administration of Justice ’06, known for an infectious positivity that has inspired service members and civilians alike, was due for a more joyous kind of homecoming. He and his wife, Alicia, received that triumphant return on May 14—this time on national television.

Thanks to the nomination by a friend from Mason, Little was chosen to receive a home renovation from the Home & Garden Television show Cousins Undercover, in conjunction with the Ellen DeGeneres Show. The Cousins and DeGeneres were moved by Little’s military sacrifice, can-do attitude, and continued support of veterans and wounded service members through his Warrior 360 nonprofit organization.

When the Littles rolled up their street that Wednesday evening to enter their “new” home for the first time, they were greeted by Mason cheerleaders, Spirit Team members, and ROTC students lining each side of the driveway. The Mason contingent was part of a flag-waving throng of about 250 strong.

Among those there to greet the Littles were the fellow members of the third Infantry Division, who pulled Mark to safety after the IED blast.

Now this was a homecoming befitting a soldier who led almost 200 combat patrols and earned a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, two Army Commendation Medals, and the Combat Action Badge.

More than 250 people showed up for the filming of the Little family renovation unveiling on “Cousins Undercover.” Photo by Evan Cantwell.

More than 250 people showed up for the filming of the Little family renovation unveiling on “Cousins Undercover.” Photo by Evan Cantwell.

“This is amazing,” says Little. “Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined what we were going to walk into today. We arrived at this house with hundreds of people who we know and love from the past and our present, and definitely our future. [The designers] really captured our essence and we have a space now that’s comfortable, functional, and amazing for us to live in.”

Walter Sweeney, president of the George Mason University Veterans Society and an economics major, nominated Little for the home renovation and joked that he knew, without being familiar with any of the other HGTV candidates, that his guy was the one who deserved the renovation because of his tireless dedication to helping veterans.

“He constantly gives back everything. Warrior 360 sometimes comes out of his personal bank account to fund people with emergency needs. He’s constantly traveling, constantly on the road, constantly doing stuff, giving himself to others. The extent to which people have shown up hasn’t really been surprising because that’s who Mark is.”

“Mark is the most selfless man you’ll ever meet,” says Aaron Coffin, a conflict analysis and resolution major, secretary of the Mason veterans group, and one of Little’s closest friends. “It’s about time we showed him how much he means to us. Everybody’s so excited because they get to give back to this guy.”

—Preston Williams


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