The war in Iraq is officially coming to an end this December and it’s estimated 32,000 Americans were injured in the war, which lasted nearly 9 years. For many, those injuries have left service members permanently disabled, in need of a little extra help around the house. That’s where the non-profit group Homes for Our Troops helps out.
By Tom Mustin for CBSDenver.com
DENVER (CBS4) – I grew up in a military family and have tremendous respect for the men and women who defend our freedom. For my “12 days of Christmas” story I wanted to focus on a group that honors those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen. The group I chose to spotlight is called Homes for our Troops. They are a non-profit organization that”s changing lives, and giving hope to wounded military veterans. Homes For Our Troops builds free custom homes for veterans who have returned from war with life altering injuries- men like Staff Sgt. Matthew Kyle.
Matt and Tracy Keil live in a custom home in Parker donated by the group.
“I’m going to be in this home for the rest of my life, says Matt. “They gave me a gift of independence and a place to raise my family.” The Keils live in their home along with their 13-month-old twins, Faith and Matthew.
In 2007, six weeks after marrying Tracy, the 25-year-old Army staff sergeant was struck by a sniper’s bullet in Rhamadi, Iraq.
“Ricocheted of my spinal column, collapsed my lung and exited off my shoulder blade. I was instantly paralyzed,” says Matt.
Life for the newlyweds had changed forever. Matt was a quadriplegic, facing life in a wheelchair.
“I woke up at Walter Reed and asked her if she still loved me,” says Matt. “She said you’re stuck with me.”
Months later the Keils were approached by Homes for our Troops. The Keils were told that their dream home was payment for Matt’s service to our country.
“At the end of the build, they handed over the keys and said you will never pay a mortgage for the rest of your live,” says Matt. “I was like crying.”
Tracy says the home was a dream come true.
“That huge weight lifted off our shoulders because they knew what we needed better than we did,” she says.
The Keil’s home includes wider doorways for Matt’s wheelchair, motion lights, and an elevator. There’s also a custom shower, and a pulley system for the bedroom.
John Gonsalves, the president of Homes for Our Troops says the homes are a way to say thank you to those brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country.
“When we build these barrier free homes at no cost to these vets and their families, we’re doing so much more than giving them a place to live,” says John. “We’re helping them to rebuild their lives.”
Cpl. Nick Orchowski was paralyzed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad. Homes for our Troops is building a home for Nick and his wife Jamie soon in Parker.
“They’re changing lives”, says Nick. “In many ways taking those barriers away from guys with injury ,ultimately they’re doing a great thing.”
And as the American flag waves proudly outside the home of an American hero, Matt Keil says it was an honor to serve his country and he and Tracy wouldn’t change a thing.
“Everything is so worth it”, say Matt.” “Our beautiful 13 month old kids. Life is great. I have no complaints whatsoever.”
What a pleasure it was to meet the Keils and the Orchowskis. Homes for our Troops counts on donations of money, materials and services. If you’d like to help the group, visit the link below.
About Homes For Our Troops
Homes For Our Troops is “strongly committed to helping those who have selflessly given to our country and have returned home with serious disabilities and injuries since Sept. 11, 2001.”