This past Saturday, I was honored with an invitation to a small get together in celebration of the fourth Home at Last project we are co-building with Hensel Phelps Construction in Oakland, Florida. This gathering was exceptionally significant in that all four recipients of the homes we’ve built for Home at Last were there together, and being honored by a visit from Sergeant Major Bryan Battaglia, the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The hope is that this esteemed visit will bring awareness to the amazing work that the Home at Last team has done for wounded combat veterans – at the highest levels.
Although I get to speak at the groundbreakings and dedications, the real work comes from people like John Russo and Paul Caruana, both employees of WPC. John and Paul have been involved with putting together the teams of subcontractors and vendors who have donated so much of their time and material to make these projects possible. We cannot thank these subs and vendors enough for their dedication to make a difference in the lives of these veterans and their families.
If you’d like to see the impact firsthand, I encourage you to attend the upcoming dedication of the home for U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jeffery Kelly this coming Saturday, August 11th at 9:30am.
Sergeant Kelly joined the Army Reserve in 2000 and transferred from the Reserves to the Regular Army in 2006. He served three tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. In 2008, while traveling in a convoy, Jeff was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and mortar fire. Despite a severely injured left leg, he completed his mission. Back at base, it was determined that his posterior tibial tendon was ruptured, so his leg was put in a cast and he was medevaced to the Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. From there he was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia. The mortar and RPG blasts also left Jeff with back problems, a brain injury and extreme chronic pain in his leg. He can walk short distances with the aid of a cane, but otherwise must use a wheelchair.
Jeff’s home was built to accommodate his injuries and he has been involved in the design and construction of the home from day one. SGM Battaglia said it best, “Projects like these are a hand up, not a hand out.” WPC is proud to be part of giving a little something back to those who have given so much for our freedom.
Although I’ve written about this project before, for those of you not familiar with Home at Last, here is a little recap:
Home at Last, a special project of West Orange Habitat for Humanity, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization, was the idea of William C. Criswell, a World War II veteran of the U.S. Navy Seabees. West Orange Habitat for Humanity established the project in 2007 to meet the special housing needs of permanently disabled combat wounded veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. The project is dedicated to presenting at least one mortgage-free home each year to a veteran. The projects are completed entirely by donations and in-kind contributions of construction labor and materials.
For battle-weary wounded soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen, who have experienced the horrors of war first-hand, being Home at Last has its own special meaning. To those who wait – wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers – the long period of worry and anxiety for the safety of their loved ones ends when they are Home at Last. To the young son or daughter –gleefully jumping into the arms of a father or mother screaming, “I love you! I’ve missed you! You really are Home at Last” has to be a welcome home a parent will long remember. Home at Last was chosen as the project’s name because it portrayed the vision for this special project.
William C. Criswell, Founder and Chairman; William T. Curdts, Home at Last Co-Chairman, John Russo, Construction Manager, Gary Atwil, Events Planning. Jim McQuillan, Fundraising.