By Sharon Foster, AFPSJanuary 26, 2009
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2009 - Army Spc. Sergio Trejo always dreamed of owning his own home.
But after he was injured by a homemade bomb during his second tour of duty in Iraq, he said he felt his dream was out of reach. The explosion left him with a broken back, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"My [Veterans Affairs] counselor was helping me look for a home," Trejo said. "It was, at times, overwhelming. She told me to look into the 'Helping A Hero' program and fill out the application. After several weeks I finally did, and today, my family and I are enjoying our new home."
Helping A Hero is a troop-support group dedicated to providing an array of support, including financial and emotional, to severely injured military personnel and their families, according to the group's Web site. Its 'Wounded Hero Home' program provides specially adapted homes to wounded warriors, with 11 homes donated to wounded servicemembers and veterans last year, officials said.
Trejo, his wife, Jessica, and children, Trinity and David, received the keys to their new home last month in the Delany Cove community of Houston.
Working in partnership with Helping a Hero, Friendswood Development Company donated the home site.
"We were honored to present the keys to this new home to a deserving American hero and say thank you in a tangible way for his valiant service to our great nation," Meredith Iler, national chairman of the Helping a Hero home program, said. "This beautiful new home will enable this wounded hero to build a new life."
The new home offered Trejo a fresh start since the long-term effects of TBI and PTSD, accompanied by his short-term memory problems, left Trejo unable to work.
"If it wasn't for Helping Hero, we would probably still be in an apartment," Trejo said. "This has allowed me to focus more on getting better."
By providing specially adapted homes to qualifying wounded military members and veterans, Helping Hero leaders hope to equip them with the foundation they need to transition successfully into their local communities.
"I am so proud of Sergio Trejo for his bravery in combat and his courage in the rehabilitation process," Iler said. "He is a leader and an encourager to other wounded heroes who have just begun their journey of recovery."
The average value of each home donated by Helping a Hero is about $250,000. Iler said the current housing crisis has not affected the groups' ability to secure donations and volunteers.
"We have been blessed to bring together patriotic Americans who are builders, developers, individual and foundation donors who are committed to saying 'thank you' to our wounded heroes in a tangible way," Iler said.
Trejo said he is thankful for the program.
"I feel extremely blessed," Trejo said. "Just the other night, my wife and I were sitting, looking around the house, still not believing it is ours. We could have never purchased a house like this on our own. It's just a dream come true."