In June we profiled an organization that was working hard to put a few permanently
disabled Iraq War vets into suitable adaptive homes. At that point Homes for Our Troops (HFOT)
had made some remarkable connections for such a
young organization. Songwriter Billy Joel had made a large donation; Phil Mickelson
who is having a very good year indeed, had dedicated his 2005 PGA tour to the
organization; pledging $100 for each birdie and $500 for each eagle he makes this
year and singer Vicky Emerson was donating proceeds from her song "Empty Boots"
to the organization.
HFOT's initial project was and is a home in Middleboro, Massachusetts
for former Army Sgt. Peter Damon who lost both of his lower arms in a bomb blast
in Iraq. Some truly rotten weather has plagued the project - a cold and
incredibly snowy winter turned into an unbelievably hot and periodically monsoon-like
summer - but that house will soon be completed.
In June there were a flurry of stories about Homes for Our Troops; CNN, NBC,
and other media ran extensive stories on the Massachusetts-based organization;
President Bush mentioned them in a speech, and the organization took second
place (and $7,500) in the Newman's Own Awards sponsored by Newman's
Own, the Fisher House Foundation, and the Military Times Media Group for volunteer
organizations that support military communities. And Sgt. Peter Damon, using
one of his remarkable prosthetic arms, threw out the opening pitch at a Boston
Red Sox home game.
And then, as always happens, HFOT seemed to become old news. One would have
to look very hard to find out what has going on with the group in the last few
Thankfully, that is about to change and HFOT will soon be marching
into living rooms across America. But first an update.
In Dale City Virginia HFOT is building a house for Army Staff Sgt. Eugene Simpson
who became a paraplegic after an improvised explosive device exploded near his
vehicle in Tikrit. Staff Sgt. Simpson is 27 and the father of four sons.
Chief Warrant Officer Juan Beltran's existing home in Pico Rivera, California
is being adapted to allow him to move about in it in his wheelchair. He is a
quadriplegic after an Apache helicopter incident.
In Dunbar, Pennsylvania PFC Sam Ross, Jr. will soon have a handicapped-accessible
log cabin. He was wounded in May, 2003 while disposing of munitions near Baghdad.
He lost a leg and part of one eye, and is now blind from his injuries.
Several other homes are also under construction.
But, to get back to the march into America's living rooms. In July, volunteers
from Massachusetts traveled to Tennessee to help the design crew from ABC's
"Extreme Makeover Home Edition" demolish and rebuild a home
for Sgt. Luis Rodriquez, an Army medic who was injured when his Humvee was blown
up by a roadside bomb while trying to pick up supplies for orphans. Sgt. Rodriquez
lost a leg and suffered other critical injuries in the attack.
The Extreme Makeover program will be broadcast early in the 2005-2006 season
which is about to begin. Given the show's high ratings in its first season,
this should provide a boost for the HFOT organization.
Look for the show and in the meantime, if you know of a deserving vet, want
to start a project in your own community, or can donate time, money, skills,
or supplies, visit the HFOT web site at www.homesforourtroops.com.
It is hard to imagine a more worthwhile project.