Lawton, OK

Mission Accomplished on Feb. 28, 2007

Homes For Our Troops assisted Extreme Makeover: Home Edition once again for the Westbrook family of Lawton, OK.

Gene Westbrook, the father of three children — Elizabeth, Katie and James — volunteered to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was left paralyzed and received a Purple Heart. After being medically discharged from the military, he devoted his time to speaking about his experiences and helping others in his town. Along with his wife, Peggy, they are respected members of a close-knit community, but Gene had to jump through many hoops just to be able to afford a handicapped-accessible van that allowed him to drive.

On June 10, 2006, a year after Gene was paralyzed in Iraq, a second tragedy hit the Westbrooks. While on their way to a friend’s house, the wheel of their van evidently became loose, causing Gene to drive across oncoming traffic and the vehicle to roll over in a ravine. The family doesn’t remember much about the accident, but sustained serious injuries: Son James was paralyzed from the waist down, daughter Katie required surgery to remove one of her kidneys, and Gene broke his ankle and knee and now suffers from short-term memory loss. With over a million dollars in medical bills, the Westbrooks can’t afford to make their house accessible for someone in a wheelchair, let alone two people. This double tragedy has been very tough on Peggy, though she has shown great courage in keeping the family together during their difficulties.

Gene is a Hero, wounded fighting for his country; Homes For Our Troops helped Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to make the Westbrook home safe and handicapped-accessible, and in turn give Gene and James the freedom that they so want back.