By Amy Perry, Fort LeeJune 24, 2010
FORT LEE, Va. (Army News Service, June 23, 2010) -- Military members who return home injured face a multitude of challenges to include the inability to move around their homes and perform the simplest of household tasks others take for granted.
One non-profit organization, though, is dedicated to helping these wounded warriors by building them specially adapted houses.
"Homes For Our Troops" provides barrier-free homes to seriously injured veterans returning from war after 9/11. The organization held a key turnover ceremony Saturday for Staff Sgt. Dwayne Cole and his wife, Shontel, at their new home in Henrico County, Va.
Cole was injured in Iraq in 2007 when a bullet entered his neck at extremely close range and lodged in his spinal column.
The homes are provided at no cost to the military members and the work and materials are from donations from corporate sponsors, tradesmen, foundation grants, volunteers and a Veterans Affairs Specially Adapted Housing Grant.
"A barrier-free home will enable Staff Sergeant Cole to regain his freedom and independence for the sacrifice he made on behalf of our country," said John Gonsalves, president and founder of Homes For Our Troops.
"We are extremely grateful to Steve Thomas from Stephen Thomas Custom Homes and all of the professional trades-people who donated their time and materials to help build this home for Dwayne Cole," Gonsalves said. "We are also most appreciative to everyone from the community who helped raise funds to build this barrier free home. It is a great testimony to the community of Henrico."
After the presentation, Cole and his wife, who is expecting in November, took a tour of the finished product and were amazed by the outcome.
"It's been a wonderful experience," said Cole. "It's truly a blessing. It gives me a new start at life. I'll be able to start my family and go back to school to achieve the goals I want."
Cole said he wanted to thank HFOT for making him a part of its family and to thank all the volunteers who helped make his home a reality.
"The community of Virginia as a whole has been very active in this project," he said. "I thank each and every one of them for the time they spent, their devotion to the project and for making this a dream come true."
Before they received their new house, the Coles lived in an apartment in Chesterfield where the living conditions were tight, and he couldn't fit his motorized wheel chair in the bathroom. "I rolled around bumping into furniture and damaging the walls," he said.
The specially-adapted home is an open floor plan that has been designed to make it easier for Cole to move around.
"I'm able to move around with no hassle," Cole said. "I'm not bumping into anything or anyone. I'm able to do stuff by myself without having to ask my wife to help me get this or that all the time."
Gonsalves said the Coles' house is the 61st house they've completed, and there are 40 more in the works. His new goal for the organization is fund-raising for the next 100 homes.
For details about Coles' home, including a photo gallery of the home in various stages of construction, visit www.homesforourtroops.org.
(Amy Perry writes for the Fort Lee Traveller newspaper. Some information provided by Homes For Our Troops.)