Everything I have , and everything I hold dear was made possible by a Veteran.
Today is an extraordinary day because we honor those who gave everything they had to ensure the american Ideal and way of life is not lost.
Thank you, Thank you so very much I owe it all to you, and men and women like you Robert Jacy Todd. You will not be forgotten in this household not ever.
Honoring Their Sacrifice: Disabled Veterans Receive New Homes
By Christine Romero|
May 29, 2017
Nearly six years ago, Army Sgt.
Nicholas Mendes was instantly paralyzed from the neck down, when an improvised exploding device went off below his vehicle in Afghanistan. The explosion caused multiple fractures in his vertebrae.
But after two complex surgeries-one for his neck and another for his throat-followed by a month in the hospital and six months in physical therapy, his troubles were far from over. Back home in Murrieta, CA, he struggled to navigate through the hallways and doorways of his rental home in his wheelchair, confining him to just two rooms. Bathing in a tub that wasn't designed to accommodate his handicap was an ordeal. And these difficulties only exacerbated the crushing depression he felt.
But last May, his life changed for the better.
Mendes and his wife,
Wendy, received a new, specially adapted, four-bedroom house from the nonprofit organization Homes for our troops , which he had discovered online. The group, which is based in Taunton, MA, builds mortgage-free homes for post 9/11 severely injured Veterans across the country.
The organization is one of several national groups (including, most prominently,
Building homes for Heros) that constructs new residences and renovates foreclosures for disabled veterans. These organizations are ramping up to meet long overdue demand.
Veterans typically receive the properties mortgage-free. However, as part of the arrangement, they often donate their government grants-devised to help them live independently-to the organizations, to help offset the costs of fixing up or building the homes. These grants can be tens of thousands of dollars.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers two types of housing grants to help veterans who were injured during their military service. The grants can be used to modify an existing home to accommodate a disability. They can also be used to purchase or construct an adapted home, in conjunction with a VA loan. Specially adapted housing grants currently offer up to $77,307 to make a home accessible for people who were seriously injured during their military service. The Special Housing Adaptation helps vets with certain injuries that are less severe, and can go up to $15,462.
Living in homes that really meet the needs of disabled vets needs is widely considered to be a key to healing-mentally as well as physically.
"I was depressed a lot at the other house, because I really couldn't move around freely," Mendes, now 26, says. "I'm definitely a lot happier here."
Giving away homes to rebuild lives
Since Homes for Our Troops was founded in 2004, the group has presented about 230 homes in 39 states to severely injured veterans, to help them rebuild their lives after their sacrifices. The privately funded organization has more than 80 additional projects underway across the United States.
The group plans to increase the number of homes it gives away each year.
"We see ourselves as a vehicle for the American people to repay the debt we owe these young men and women who have sacrificed so much defending our freedom and independence," says the group's executive director,
Bill Ivey, a retired U.S. Army infantryman who served 31 years.
These veterans have sustained a wide range of serious injuries in the line of duty, including limb amputations, partial or full paralysis, and severe traumatic brain injuries. The homes are built where veterans want to live, in order to help with recovery, Ivey said.
After they've lived in the homes for six years, they begin accruing 20% equity each year. The goal is for them to own the homes outright by the end of their 10th year.
The new homeowners are responsible for taxes, upkeep, and maintenance. They can work with a free financial planner for three years to help them to plan for these expenses.
"We stay with them for life," Ivey says about the organization's relationship with these veterans.
A home to help the disabled overcome daily challenges
Fewer than 1%
of U.S. homes are accessible for wheelchair users, according to a 2015 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Report that looked at 2011 Census data. And fewer than 5% of residences are even accessible for those with trouble walking and otherwise getting around.
Roughly a third of all homes
could be modified to become more handicap-accessible. But it's often a costly and challenging job to widen hallways and doorways, create wheelchair-accommodating showers and replace windows with those that slide open and shut; and shelving that can be easily pulled down by those who can't stand up.
These sorts of remodels can run homeowners or renters tens of thousands of dollars. And, unfortunately, many disabled veterans don't have that kind of cash just lying around.
But Mendes was lucky. In his new home, a bath takes just about 15 minutes. He controls the lights and doors in the home and can once again open a window with automated buttons and feel the cool breeze. Countertops are a little lower so he can reach them in his wheelchair.
"The biggest thing in the house that has made a huge difference is the shower," said Mendes, now 26, who also served in Iraq in 2008. "In the other house, we had a stall shower, and my wife has to bathe me. So, it would take over an hour to wash me-and she was really only able to see and reach one side of me."
The new tub has "enough room to have a party in," he says.
From foreclosure to relief
Other problems, like tinnitus (ringing in the ears)-caused by exposure to loud gunfire or machinery-can make it hard for afflicted veterans to sleep at night. But they can often find relief through something as simple as the sound of running water.
Many of the residences that Building Homes for Heroes has provided to disabled veterans have lots of running water, both inside and outside, for just that reason. Its founder,
Andy Pujol, a businessman who volunteered in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, also suffers from the ailment.
Homes may also include installing different types of flooring in each room of the home. Having a mix of hardwood flooring, tile, and carpet can help signal to blind vets which room they are in, without needing to count steps.
The nonprofit group has now given away just over 100 newly built residences and renovated foreclosures to disabled veterans since it was founded in 2006. The Valley Stream, NY-based organization is aiming to give away one specially outfitted residence every 10 days this year.
"Not only are we able to help the vets with these homes, but we also revitalize the community," Pujol says of the foreclosures his group fixes up.
Homes for the red, white, and blue
Army Staff Sgt.
Luke Murphy, 35, was also a recipient of one of these much-needed homes to accommodate his own disabilities. In 2006, he was on his second deployment when he lost his right leg above the knee and sustained serious damage to his left leg in an explosion in Iraq.
When he returned to the United States, he was living in rentals with various roommates. His roommates helped, but if he got sick or was trying to recover from surgery-he had a whopping 33 of them-it was a disaster.
Then, in early 2014, Homes for Our Troops gave him a four-bedroom home outside Tallahassee, FL. It was like winning the lottery. He moved in with his girlfriend, Stephanie Wernke (now Murphy), and they were married two years later.
"These kinds of injuries either make or break people," says Murphy, who wrote the book "Blasted by Adversity: The Making of a Wounded Warrior" and is now the co-owner of the Tallahassee, FL-based Southern Land Realty. The new home is "financial security forever. There's no mortgage. That's peace of mind."
Murphy, who now wears an often painful prosthetic leg and uses his wheelchair at home for comfort, says he couldn't afford a home like this. He can now easily go outside as well, walking his dog on the wheelchair-friendly sidewalk that wraps around most of his home. And it's no longer hard to reach those HVAC and sprinkler systems from his wheelchair.
When it rains, he can easily drive his special vehicle into his large garage, unload his groceries and go inside the house without fear of falling or getting his $50,000 microprocessor knee wet-which could ruin it.
"This [home] has totally changed my life," Murphy says.
RES 189 TOURNAMENT RD, PINE VALLEY, ROTONDA WEST, List Price $314,000, Sold for $304,000
RES 231 ARLINGTON DR, CAPE HAZE WINDWARD, PLACIDA, List Price $329,900, Sold for $325,000
RES 218 WESTWIND DR, CAPE HAZE WINDWARD, PLACIDA, List Price $274,900, Sold for $270,000
VAC 256 BUNKER RD, PEBBLE BEACH, ROTONDA WEST, List Price $39,900, Sold for $33,900
VAC 10043 TRAMORE (5 LOTS), PORT CHARLOTTE, ENGLEWOOD, List Price $62,500, Sold for $40,000
Based on information from the My-Florida Regional MLS, for May 24, 2017. This information may or may not include all listed, expired, withdrawn, pending or sold properties of one or more members of the My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service.
Robert Jacy Todd
5/25/48 - 5/9/67
Robert Jacy Todd is my friend though we never met. As a matter of fact I only saw this photo for the first time last year. When I did is was overwhelming. I was speechless ... completely over taken with emotion. You see I wore The POW MIA bracelet of private Todd for many many years. It never came off until the day I realized that the Military Heritage Museum in Punta Gorda did not have one in their collection. There was no doubt that that was the place and the time to share something that had been so special to me with others who would be moved like I had been.
Robert Thank you for your service and for making the ultimate sacrifice, you have made a deep impact on my life for the past 30 years and I know that on my last day I will think of you.