By Sgt. M. Benjamin Gable/10th PCHDecember 17, 2009
HOPE MILLS, N.C. - The "Build Brigade" from Homes for our Troops and more than 50 volunteers gathered at day break Dec. 4, to help erect a home during the weekend for a local Soldier injured in an explosion in Iraq. But this is no ordinary Soldier.
Staff Sgt. Maurice Craft is a decorated Army veteran who deployed to Iraq from Fort Bragg six years ago. He lost his left leg and suffered multiple injuries to his right when a bomb was detonated close to him during a mission. He spent two years in rehab and has now returned to North Carolina with his mother and two daughters. And this is no ordinary home.
The home is custom-built to provide complete accessibility and will offer wider hallways and doors, a roll-in shower, easy-access sinks and cabinets as well as a front-load washer and dryer set, to name a few.
"Every aspect of this home is built specifically for Maurice," said Larry Gill, Homes for our Troops veteran's liaison. "This will help restore his independence and confidence."
Craft's new home is being built by Homes for Our Troops, an organization based in Massachusetts whose mission is to build specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Homes for Our Troops has completed 48 specially adapted homes since 2004 and have 33 in various stages of construction throughout the country.
Craft got his first chance to see his new home as the walls went up and the windows were being placed.
"I had no clue that these guys would be moving this fast," said Craft. "That shows you that people do still care. They want to get things done."
Representatives from Homes for Our Troops reached out to local builders, contractors and vendors for support - they showed up in force.
According to John Puczylowski, a local contractor providing building oversight, there were three sub-contractors, two framing crews and a truss crew. These crews teamed up with volunteers ranging from construction workers who had the day off, to Fort Bragg Soldiers, local businesses and radio stations.
One of those volunteers is especially close to Craft. Sgt. 1st Class Brian Edmiston, Craft's former platoon sergeant, now with Battery E, 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery, 82nd Airborne Division, was one of the first Soldiers on the scene after the explosion and rushed Craft to the nearest hospital.
"He helped save my life, he's helping build my house and now he's helping open a new chapter in my life," said Craft, of Edmiston.
"I wouldn't miss this for the world," said Edmiston. "He has always been a great friend to me, and I'm just doing what I can to help."
Edmiston and the "Build Brigade" arrived Friday morning to nothing more than a slab of concrete. By sunset, the exterior walls, windows and trusses were in place and the majority of the roof was covered. By Sunday afternoon, the house was weather-proofed and ready for interior construction.
After the house is completed, Homes for Our Troops will sponsor another volunteer day to help landscape the yard. Anyone wishing to help is invited to roll out fresh grass, plant flowers and prepare the home for Craft and his Family. The final step will be the key ceremony, in which Craft and his Family will officially receive the keys to his new house.
If you would like to volunteer, contact Larry Gill at 251-581-5531, or visit www.homesforourtroops.org.