Volunteers Build Homes for Wounded Vets

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Stan Roberts, who lost a leg during a tour of duty in Iraq, received a new home a week ago Thursday morning.

The newly built three-bedroom, two-bath home in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., in the greater Raleigh area was a gift from Operation: Coming Home, a team of veterans, homebuilders and other volunteers who are dedicated to providing free housing in the Raleigh/Durham area to severely wounded veterans of recent Middle East wars. (For another look at organizations building homes for vets, visit our sister site Politics Daily's story about the Massachusetts-based group, Homes for Our Troops.)

The home allowed the 29-year-old and his wife, Crissy, 30, to move their four children out of a rental community with mostly retirees and into a neighborhood with lots of other children. It also places them a short commute to the colleges they are both attending. Roberts is pursuing an IT degree and his wife is studying for an education degree.

But the home solves some other issues for Roberts beyond community and his commute. It was built to accommodate his disability and injuries from a blast that resulted in the loss of his right leg, damage to his right arm and traumatic brain injury.
The 1,800-square-foot ranch has disabled-accessible doorways and bathrooms, low-profile thresholds, adjusted storage spaces, and a special Marine Corps man cave (pictured below).

Roberts, who, in addition to other tours, served three tours of duty in Iraq and one tour out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., which is embroiled in a few lawsuits with some families over allegedly contaminated drinking water.

During his last tour, Roberts was injured on June 6, 2007 by an improvised exploding device thrown into his amphibious assault vehicle. The injury changed his life.

"Basically at 9 p.m. we were going down the route there, doing routine patrol, getting ready to dismount the vehicle. We rolled under the bridge and the explosives were on the bottom of the bridge. We hit it. It blew up," Sgt. Roberts told HousingWatch. "I asked everybody if they were OK, they were. And that is when I realized my right leg was pretty much gone. I laid down in the vehicle. I had shrapnel in my shoulder and my right forearm was broken."

Roberts (pictured at left with his wife) did about two years of physical and occupational therapy, learning how to walk again. As for his arm, he told HousingWatch: "It works alright. I have limited rotation in my wrists, and I can't extend it totally straight and can't flex it all the way back."

He credits Corpsman Daniel Kim for saving his life out in the field by applying a tourniquet to Roberts' leg wound. Roberts had not seen Kim after he left the base until Kim presented Roberts with the keys to the new home.

"It is really hard to get me surprised ... but they got me. I had no idea what was going to happen," Roberts said about the day people came in with balloons and flowers to tell him and his wife Crissy know that they and their four children are the second recipient of a house from Operation: Coming Home.

Roberts says the home has accommodating features their previous rental did not. He says, "The fridge is side by side, so if I am in a wheelchair I can reach both sides; with a top and bottom I would not be able to get to the freezer. There are safety rails in bathroom and a bench in the shower with a detachable head. All the doorways are wide enough. Even in the kitchen."

"By far the kitchen is my favorite place," his wife, Crissy, 30, told HousingWatch. "It is gorgeous. It is so much room. Everything is wider to accommodate a wheelchair." Roberts, 29, retired from the Marines at the end of October.

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The Hero Home, built by Royal Oaks Building Group, LLC with land donated by developer Gaines and Company, cost under $5,000 thanks to the donations of materials and labor from additional sponsors and volunteers.

Roberts was selected in June to receive the 2010 Hero Home on behalf of Operation: Coming Home, just before it broke ground. The home was completed in September and the Roberts moved in at the end of October. This is the second home given away under the volunteer project.

"We figured, build a house for a disabled veteran and give it to them free and clear -- a reasonable home they can afford the taxes on," says Tim Minton, the executive VP of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County. "They are adjusting back to civilian life. And don't have to worry about where they are going to live or make their home."

The project is a joint venture of the HBA and the Triangle Real Estate and Construction Veterans, which is a group of military veterans with representatives of all five military branches working in the real estate or construction profession in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. Founded on Veteran's Day 2006, the TREACV is dedicated to building and donating homes for disabled combat veterans. Its members believe in three principles: They are proud to have served their country in uniform; they feel their civilian professions are honorable and contribute greatly to the Triangle's quality of life; and they are willing to continue serving their community, country and fellow veterans when a need arises.

Also see:
Vet Beats Mortgage Mod Scam with Refi
U.S. Marine Caught in VA Loan Limbo
VA Loans: Homebuying Help for Veterans
Texas Soldier Enjoys Reclaimed Foreclosed Home

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