Rebuilding injured veterans Lives
When Veterans receive a new specially adapted custom home from HFOT, they are now free to focus on their recovery and returning to their life’s work of serving others.
Many embrace their roles as motivational speakers sharing their stories of perseverance with classrooms and civic groups all over the country. Others go on to start families, go back to school, or take up careers as engineers, law enforcement agents, prosthetic technicians, nonprofit executives, business owners, artists, or VA staff members. HFOT even has a few US Paralympians in its Veteran family. Read below to learn about the many ways that HFOT is Building Homes and Rebuilding Lives.
Bringing Back the Beat
Army Specialist Steven Baskis always loved music. As a child, his father would take Steven’s hands while sitting in his lap and tap them to the beat as they listened to songs by classic artists like The Beach Boys and AC/DC. “I really took to the drums, I love the beat,” he says. After high school, he started drifting away from music when he enlisted, and his military career took center stage. In May 2008, Steven lost his eyesight when an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) detonated next to his vehicle in Iraq, bringing his military career path to a halt.
When Steven received his specially adapted custom Homes For Our Troops home in Montrose, Colorado, in 2018, he finally had a place where he could live on his own. Having a barrier-free environment gives Steven the ability to focus on his interests and career aspirations. He has become reacquainted with his love of music and turned part of his home into an audio recording studio for music and podcasts. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music production via online courses with Berklee College of Music in Boston. Steven says music has been an essential part of his recovery, and he’ll often listen to tunes as he climbs mountains and does other outdoor activities. “Audio is more or less everything. Now that I’m blind, it’s become an obsession.”
Steven wants to use his skills to support others once he completes his degree. He envisions recording and holding virtual concerts for up-and-coming artists in his studio, and helping folks promote their charitable causes on his podcast. “The podcast is me trying to help others share what they want to say.”
Steven says his HFOT home is why he can pursue his love of music and make it a career where he can support others. He is especially grateful to have the financial security of living in a donated home during challenging times like these. “I can’t see the home, but I can feel it – it’s an amazing space for me,” he says. “This home, and the people who donated to make it happen, helped me create a foundation and move forward.”
Significant Progress in Recovery
Not too long ago, the idea of enjoying a physical activity every day that she loved was something Army Private First Class Heather Trujillo could not even dream about. In 2006, while serving in Afghanistan, Heather was severely injured while moving medical equipment across a bridge. Her injury progressed over the years to the point where she is partially paralyzed from the waist down.
Not wanting to worry her children, Heather refrained from doing any activity that could cause further injury. “I was locked between my bed and a couch,” she says.
When Heather was accepted into the Homes For Our Troops program, her desire to be active increased. Knowing she would soon be living in an HFOT home adapted to her injuries, she felt confident to take on a new challenge. While exploring exercises she could do with her injury, Heather heard about aerial yoga, a sport that combines traditional yoga poses, Pilates, and dance with the use of a hammock. Heather has made incredible progress over the years by practicing daily and also working with a trainer. “In the swing you don’t feel your weight on your joints and you’re semi-weightless,” she says.
Heather has regained muscle tone and her pain has decreased. The movements strengthen her spine by contracting and rehydrating the discs, and she is now able to walk short distances with the assistance of a cane. “If HFOT hadn’t built me a specially adapted custom home, I would not have been able to push myself this far because I would be worrying about getting hurt and my kids having to take care of me,” she says.
She received the keys to her home in Georgia in October 2018. She says she is grateful to HFOT’s donors and supporters for making this a reality. “I love the peace my lot affords…trees and stars are my views. The home is set up so there is plenty of space to navigate. It is enabling me to push my physical therapy/training even further. What I most like about the home is the freedom it means.”
Receiving a specially adapted custom HFOT home will complete the American dream for Matias. “It will be our forever home and we will be able to raise our family without having to worry about the future,” he says.
On Dec. 21, 2007, Army Sergeant Bryan Camacho, serving as an Infantryman with the 1-87 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, was searching for an ammunition cache with his unit in Hawija, Iraq, when another patrol in a nearby village was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). SGT Camacho and his unit were responding when his vehicle ran over a secondary IED. The blast threw SGT Camacho from the turret of the vehicle, breaking his back and paralyzing him from the waist down. A few years later, Bryan faced a major setback in his recovery. On Nov. 15, 2014, Bryan’s adapted truck spun out on ice and rolled into a ditch, breaking his neck and paralyzing him from the neck down. The injury took away the independence he worked so hard to regain.
Bryan received his specially adapted custom home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on September 19, 2019, and until recently, has spent much of his time in bed with issues related to his medical condition. Now that Bryan is living in a barrier-free environment, he has the energy to do physical therapy in his garage exercise area. He has regained the ability to use his right arm to manipulate a BowFlex machine, and plans to start a regular exercise routine with the help of his friend and caregiver, Liam. Bryan’s new specially adapted custom home provides the motivation he needs to get moving in the right direction of recovery. “I’m tired of waiting for the pain to go away. It’s time to just start working on it,” he says.
No Place Like Home
Marine First Sergeant Marcus Wilson and his wife Briarly received their specially adapted custom Homes For Our Troops home in California in January 2020, and their daily lives have already significantly improved.
“Following our Key Ceremony, we immediately felt at home in our HFOT home. The changes I have seen in my husband, in terms of mobility and accessibility, have brought so much happiness and have really given us back time with our children. Everyday tasks, such as bathing and cooking, are now done without the frustrations we experienced in our previous home. The donors who contribute to HFOT’s mission of Building Homes and Rebuilding Lives, provide beautiful adapted homes–what cannot be measured is how these donors rebuild lives. HFOT’s donors have provided my husband with a calm and peace that he has not experienced since his injuries. We have been welcomed into a community that has embraced and included us in activities, and volunteers to assist us in landscaping and other chores to maintain our home. Our children are thriving and spending more time playing outdoors because Marcus is able to safely navigate the inside and outside areas of the home. We are eternally grateful for the opportunities these donors have provided for our family and we look forward to the diplomas, degrees, holidays, and all other special events we are able to celebrate in this beautiful home because of their support and commitment.” – Briarly Wilson
“I am overjoyed in my new accessible home and am enjoying the safety and security it has brought to my family. The home has given me back so many freedoms while removing the frustrations I used to experience. We would like to thank Homes For Our Troops, corporate partners, volunteers, and donors for continuing to not only recognize, but support the mission of providing homes to injured Veterans.” – Marine First Sergeant Marcus Wilson
In 2007, Army Specialist Adam Putt deployed as a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to Baghdad, Iraq. On Aug. 2, 2007, one month into his deployment, he was in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion. The blast killed several of SPC Putt’s squad members, and severely injured him and others, including fellow HFOT Veterans Michael Gower and Oscar Guerra. SPC Putt lost both legs as a result of the blast.
Now medically retired, Adam enjoys painting, reading, and practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with his sons. He is also involved with Honoring America’s Warriors, an organization that provides military honors at funerals and helps Veterans adjust to civilian life.
Adam’s greatest concern in his previous home was being able to provide for his wife Tiffany and their two sons. Because of his injuries, Adam felt like he was not able to fulfill this role. He says receiving a home adapted to his injuries mitigates this worry and enables him to focus on finishing his degree in biology.
“Since moving into my Homes For Our Troops home, my sons and I have started practicing Jiu-Jitsu together. I like this sport because it is something I can participate in and not just be a spectator. Unfortunately, I tore my meniscus in November 2019 while practicing and had to undergo surgery. In my previous home, I would have been restricted to only a few rooms, and unable to do most daily routines and chores. It would have fallen onto my wife Tiffany to do just about everything, which she would have done without complaint. Fortunately, my HFOT home enables me to recover comfortably and use my wheelchair. I was not encumbered at all, and could still do routine chores. Tiffany didn’t need to take off work or help me with anything around the house. I would have considered giving up Jiu-Jitsu in the past, fearing future injury. What else would I have given up or not even tried in the future? Now, I don’t have to worry about that.” – Army Specialist Adam Putt, 2019 HFOT home recipient
A NEW CHAPTER
Jennie Hendrickson was filled with gratitude and emotion on the day she and her husband, Navy PO3 Justin Hendrickson, received the keys to their new specially adapted custom home in Pennsylvania, on August 3, 2019. In her speech below, she shares her deep appreciation for Justin and how much their new home means for their future.
“I am so proud to be married to someone who is so patient, so kind and so loving. Justin and I have been married for 12 years. Some days have been good, and some days haven’t. But we carry every day with us because this makes us how we are today; honestly, I wouldn’t want it to be any different. God blessed both of us with second chances at a new life.
Today, I want to speak not as a home recipient and not as Justin’s wife, but as a person who has watched this man grow; who has succeeded, who has taken his very hard past and turned it into his future to teach others. Justin has endured things that I could never imagine. Yes, I survived brain cancer and am now in remission, but he had to take care of me and everything in our house. In a marriage, this is probably the worst-case scenario for your spouse. And it hurt me to know that here he is, fighting again for something, and for someone, just like I had to.
While he was in the Navy serving with Marines as a corpsman, I can’t relate to the thought of having friends that are a part of a close-knit bond, a brotherhood, and they would fight and die for each other if that time had to come. That is foreign to us civilians unless you have seen war. Being in the military was the freedom Justin needed to see the world, and to see the world differently now than the rest of us do.
In the midst of having so much to go through when Justin was injured, is something that many Veterans still have to go through today. Can you imagine, let alone understand, what that must have been like, and then to try to put all of that to rest? Many Veterans never leave the destruction, never leave the death of their friends, and are forced to save all the PTSD that comes with it for when they get out. Justin lost one of his friends that day and he was not able to help him because of his wounds. He directed everyone to hold their ground, with everyone injured and they made it out – I cannot imagine what it takes to find any sort of strength in the face of danger and possible death. Justin has seen and been through so much. Justin – you have honor.
Justin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in education and leadership. He works two jobs. Three times a year he is asked to teach second year military students at the Wounded Warrior Panel at Walter Reed. I hear his story from Iraq every time he is in the classroom. He teaches others about what happened to him physically, mentally, and medically, and what these students from every branch of the military should be thinking about now as they learn and grow. You can see that he makes a big impact to them and you know that they won’t forget what he taught them.
He has been and will always be successful because he is so driven and appreciates the life he has. He is a very positive person. He always wants to make things better, and easier. He is definitely someone to look up to. He has an old soul and is very wise beyond his years. I have learned so much from Justin. Sometimes, I wonder why he chose me to be his wife. I am a simple woman, and Justin likes to stir things up a bit.
Justin, thank you for being someone that we all can look up to…to teach us, to understand, to love and for the endless possibilities that you show and share with others. That, anyone’s life isn’t just for settling. There is way more out there in the world than people can think of and showing people not to be scared and go for it! Thank you for thinking outside the box, always – even though I give you the side eye with a smile when you come up with your crazy ideas. Thank you for sharing and for challenging me and others. Thank you for, being honest, true to yourself and making people laugh. The world needs more people like you! And most of all, thank you for loving me. Because even though I tried to keep this letter ‘unbiased,’ you need to know that so many people here love you, and I most of all. I thank our Heavenly Father for you every night when I pray. You are my life, my love, my strength and my everything. We’ve helped each other through our worst times and have celebrated during the best times. HFOT is giving us a new chapter, and I am gladly taking this next step with open arms and new possibilities with you. I love you always and forever. Thank you for being you.” Click here to read his full story.
“This home has helped us achieve stability as a family in so many different ways. Having a conducive setting where I am able to take better care of myself, enables me to also take better care of my wife, Desiree, and our son Kingsley. HFOT has helped alleviate a lot of stressors I didn’t even realize I had and impacted me daily.” – Marine Cpl Darryl Charles
On Oct. 17, 2011, during his second deployment, Corporal Charles, a mortarman, was conducting a patrol with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). Cpl Charles sustained severe damage to both legs and internal injuries as a result of the blast.
Medically retired, Darryl and his wife Desiree are proud parents to their son Kingsley, who was born in 2017. Darryl loves being a dad and watching his son grow, but he could not fully relax and enjoy fatherhood in his previous home because it was not adapted to his injuries. Darryl’s frustration with his living environment increased as Kingsley started crawling, and he realized how many safety hazards in his home prevented him from keeping up with his son. When showering, Darryl balanced on one leg, risking further injury to his knee. Darryl’s specially adapted custom Homes For Our Troops home enables him to live comfortably and, most importantly, gives him more time for Desiree and Kingsley. “This home enables me to properly take care of my family and allows me to better provide for them, now and in the future,” he says.
With the freedom and independence he regains in his HFOT home, Darryl is able to concentrate on finishing his degree in information technology from National University in San Diego, and his job as a DOD civilian with the Navy. He also has time for other activities which include working out, hiking, riding motorcycles, and snowboarding.
He received the keys to his home in Fallbrook, California, on September 19, 2020. Click here to read his full story.
“This home has been our dream come true. When my family and I are doing simple, subtle things like cleaning or laundry, it gives me a heartwarming feeling. All of us Veterans who have been injured, we can now let our guard down and rest easy at night. Home is what you make of it and HFOT has given us the right tools. This home has given us our dignity back. We are at peace now.” – Army SGT David Guzman
On Sept. 17, 2004, Sergeant Guzman was on his first combat deployment when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Taji, Iraq. SGT Guzman sustained shrapnel injuries, hearing loss in his right ear, loss of use of his right foot, and other injuries.
During his recovery, David developed a passion for cooking and obtained degrees in culinary arts and agricultural science. Now a professional chef, David pays it forward by preparing dishes and meals for fellow Purple Heart recipients and his family. However, as a seasoned and skilled cook, David found it especially discouraging that the kitchen in his previous home was not accessible.
Having a specially adapted custom home not only helps David in the kitchen, it also provides comfort for his wife Maribel and their three children. Maribel used to constantly fear her husband would fall and injure himself further in the shower, as he has done in the past. The financial freedom of a donated home will also help him achieve his goal of helping his sons open their own catering or smokehouse business.
He received the keys to his home in Wimberley, Texas, on July 18, 2020. Click here to read his full story.
“When my wife went on an overnight trip to her parents’ house, she knew she could do so with confidence because I am now able to take care of myself. The pull-down cabinets and lower countertops enable me to cook independently and do the dishes while ensuring I’m safe as I prepare my food. We are very lucky to have Homes For Our Troops take care of us.” -Marine SSgt Liam Dwyer
On May 21, 2011, Marine Staff Sergeant Dwyer was on patrol searching a compound when he stepped on a 30-pound improvised explosive device (IED). The blast traumatically amputated his left leg and severely damaged his remaining limbs.
Even though Liam professionally races cars, navigating his previous home was an obstacle. There was not enough space for him to use his wheelchair, and it was a challenge for him to climb the stairs. The open floor plan and wide doorways in his single-level Homes For Our Troops home mitigate these issues for Liam.
He received the keys to his home in Lake Worth, Florida, on August 8, 2020. Click here to read his full story.
“The home enables me to be able to watch my family grow and move on in life, without the worry of wondering if I can get around or provide for my family. Being able to move freely means everything. This home is the pinnacle of freedom for me.” -Army SPC Andrew Pike
On March 26, 2007, Specialist Pike was on patrol in Bayji, Iraq, when he sustained a gunshot wound to his abdomen. Thankfully, a fast-acting Army surgeon, Captain Yamamoto, was able to stabilize him quickly and save his life. SPC Pike’s injuries resulted in complete paraplegia of the lower extremities. This injury did not dampen SPC Pike’s spirits. After months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center, he returned home.
Andrew leads an active life in spite of his injuries. He enjoys hunting and fishing, and has also taken up archery and is training to compete in the Paralympics. He is a beekeeper and maintains several hives. He says the freedom and independence of a specially adapted Homes For Our Troops home enable him to grow this hobby.
Most importantly, Andrew’s HFOT home benefits his family life. Andrew lives with his wife Becca and their son and three daughters. Taking care of his family was the main motivator for Andrew to apply for a home through Homes For Our Troops. The realities of parenting in their previous home were difficult to manage. The doors were not wide enough for his wheelchair, and he could not easily access the children’s rooms. His Homes For Our Troops home with wide doorways and an open floorplan mitigates this issue for Andrew.
He received the keys to his home in Kuna, Idaho, on September 28, 2020. Click here to read his full story.
“During rare situations that we are in with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a huge relief to not have to worry about a mortgage or the other stresses that come along with that type of financial burden. Plus, the property we live on gives us a great sense of security,” ~ Air Force TSgt Daniel Fye
During his third combat tour on May 27, 2011, Air Force Tech Sergeant Daniel Fye, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team Leader with the 466 Bravo EOD Flight, was severely injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion during a route clearance mission in Mushan, Afghanistan. The blast resulted in the loss of his left leg and severe damage to his right.
These days Dan can be found in his garage working on cars, in the gym lifting weights or in his home spending time with his four children and wife Nicole. With his family responsibilities and active lifestyle, there were numerous challenges he faced in his previous home. His completely accessible Homes For Our Troops home makes daily life more comfortable and “less of a chore.” Having the financial burden of a mortgage eliminated, he says, opens up many doors for him and his family.
He received his HFOT home in Bremerton, Washington, on September 23, 2017. Click here to read his full story.
“HFOT opens the door of all doors for the future. This gift not only impacts my wife and me, but more importantly, my kids, and our family’s generations to come.” -Army SFC Gabriel Monreal
On Aug. 24, 2010, Sergeant First Class Monreal was on his third combat deployment in Afghanistan as an Infantryman with the 2/327 Infantry Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, when he was hit by an 82mm recoilless rifle round, resulting in injuries to his abdomen, thighs, forearms, and the amputation of his left leg below the knee.
Gabe now enjoys leading an active lifestyle with his wife Rachel and their four children, Matius, Layla, Noah, and Izabella. Together, they help other military families through a local San Antonio nonprofit called Operation Comfort, an organization that offers a variety of adaptive sports programs for injured Veterans. In Gabe’s free time, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, skydiving, barbequing, and working in his yard. In his previous home, he would often become discouraged because he could not maneuver his wheelchair around the narrow halls and doorways.
Being friends with several HFOT home recipients, Gabe saw firsthand the impact a new specially adapted custom home makes for Veterans and their families. His HFOT home reduces the barriers Gabe experienced in his daily life. He is happy to have an accessible bathroom where he is able to shower safely. Another benefit is the open floorplan and accessible kitchen, where he is able to help his family cook and do housework. He is also able to access his yard more easily on the paved walkways surrounding the entire home.
He received the keys to his home in Spring Branch, Texas, on November 11, 2020. Click here to read his full story.
“This home gives me independence, security, and the freedom of knowing my family is taken care of. It helps not just one Veteran; it serves the whole family.” – Air Force SSgt Keith Sekora
On Nov. 5, 2010, during his second combat deployment, SSgt Sekora was on an EOD combat mission with the 20th Special Forces Group in Afghanistan, when an unknown object struck him in the back of his neck. This, along with being involved in other blasts, resulted in a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), four massive strokes, and several other injuries.
Today, Keith is a member of the U. S. Paralympic archery team. Although Keith has a great attitude, his previous home presented daily challenges and risks. Partial paralysis, vertigo, and double vision made the stairs in his home a particular challenge and safety issue.
Keith also cannot feel temperature due to his traumatic brain injury. One feature of his specially adapted custom home that he enjoys is the shower with digital temperature control. This prevents Keith from burning himself, further complicating his recovery.
Keith says the gift of receiving a specially adapted Homes For Our Troops home is life-changing.
He received the keys to his home in Port Orchard, Washington, on September 26, 2020. Click here to read his full story.