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 become family men, students, 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.
HFOT Veterans Bobby Withers and Geoffrey Quevedo Thriving on Team HFOT
Many of our HFOT Veterans do not let their injuries get in the way of athletic aspirations. Army CPT Bobby Withers and Army SPC Geoffrey Quevedo both lost limbs while serving – Geoffrey lost his left leg and left arm in Afghanistan in 2012, and Bobby lost his right leg in Afghanistan in 2010.
Immediately following his injury, running did not cross Geoffrey’s mind. As he began integrating back into sports during his recovery he heard about Team HFOT’s Disneyland Half Marathon team. Being a recipient of an HFOT home in California, he felt it was a great way to give back and a good way to challenge himself. “I thought to myself ‘I can do this,’” he says.
Bobby had a goal to run a road race to inspire his platoon. He was able to reach his goal a few years later, when he ran his first 5k right before he received his HFOT home in Florida in 2015. He has now completed several races, including two half marathons. He credits former HFOT Events Manager Cara Yanosick with giving him the confidence. “She inspired me to start running and keep running,” he says.
Preparing for a half marathon, of course, requires rigorous training beforehand and recovery afterward. Bobby and Geoffrey are grateful to have their own HFOT homes where they can do both. Their favorite features are the therapy tub and shower bench seat for recuperating after a race. Geoffrey says his athletic performance has improved since moving into his home. “I have less physical and mental stress to worry about, allowing me to have more time for myself,” he says.
LCpl Matias Ferreira proves hard work makes Dreams Comes True
Matias Ferreira proves that with determination and hard work, nothing can get in the way of achieving your dreams. As a child Matias aspired to be either a U.S. Marine or police officer. Back then, he never imagined he would achieve both.
Matias joined the Marines at the age of 19. The 9/11 attacks ignited his desire to serve, as he had several friends who were impacted. In September 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan as a machine gunner with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. His military career abruptly ended during that tour when he lost both legs and broke his pelvis after stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) in January 2011.
After his injury, Matias assumed his chances of serving his country and community again were over. “I never in a million years thought I would be able to accomplish becoming a police officer after my injury,” he says.
Once Matias started physical therapy, the prospect of reaching his goal to serve on a police force became a possibility. “I began to think that maybe I would have a chance to meet the physical needs of the job,” he says.
Matias made national headlines when he became the first double amputee full time police officer in the country. Matias says his family, specifically his wife Tiffany and their young daughter Tianna, is what kept him motivated to reach this achievement.
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.
Army Sergeant Aaron Jolly takes steps again after being paralyzed
Army Sergeant Aaron Jolly is walking proof that support from loved ones and determination go a long way.
After an improvised explosive device (IED) blast on his second deployment left him paralyzed in 2011, doctors told Jolly he had a 10 percent chance of walking again. Last year, he fought against those odds as he took his first few steps with the assistance of a walker. “It made me want to try even harder,” Jolly says. “I knew that if I could do that I could do more.”
Initially paralyzed from the waist down after his injury, Jolly has since regained feeling up through his ankles. Right now, Jolly says his main focus is to strengthen his legs enough to support his body. With the aid of his walker, he can currently make a few laps around a room. Soon, he will receive a wheelchair that will facilitate his mobility, allowing him to stand more often. Jolly credits his success to the unending support from his family, as well as his own determination – the same grit and tenacity he employed during his career with the Army. “My family is always pushing me to keep going and I’m pretty strong willed as it is. Once I decide I’m going to do something, there’s no stopping me,” he adds.
Jolly also attributes his scope of progress to the specially adapted custom home he received from Homes for Our Troops in December 2013. In his previous home, there were only a few places he could access. Today, the open floor plan and wide doorways allow him enough room to practice exercises in the comfort of his own home, in addition to the three days a week he already attends physical therapy. Jolly says his HFOT home also makes it easier to do everyday household tasks, like washing dishes and laundry. “I can do just about anything I could do before my injury,” he says.
Never Leave a Fellow Soldier Behind
Retired Army Staff Sergeant Michael Lage exemplifies this motto every day with humility and empathy. Severe burns and the loss of his left hand in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Iraq in 2007 didn’t stop Michael. While being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center, he joined the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB). He enjoyed the work so much he extended his service in the military to continue his efforts. “After spending four years rehabilitating, I decided to stay on the Warrior Transition Battalion and help other injured Soldiers,” he says.
In order for Michael to continue serving his fellow Soldiers, he needs a home that allows him to rest and relax. He and his wife April, who is also an injured Veteran, encounter challenges in their current home every day. Michael has difficulty opening doors, and both he and April find climbing stairs challenging. A single-level, adapted HFOT home with automatic doors will solve these issues. Michael says the best part of receiving his forever home: “It will be easier to spend more time giving back and doing what we love.”
Michael is humbled that HFOT’s supporters are willing to build him and his family a specially adapted home. “We are so very lucky to live in a country where our Veterans are taken care of,” he says.
Homes For Our Troops will be building for Michael in Texas. Learn more about his story and how to get involved with his project at www.hfotusa.org/lage.
“The home has brought a sense of security and comfort in my daily life.”
~ Marine PFC Isaac Blunt
Marine Private First Class Isaac Blunt joined the Marines shortly after high school and started his first deployment to Afghanistan in March 2011. On June 13 of that year, PFC Blunt, a rifleman with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was on foot patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, when he stepped on a pressure plate improvised explosive device (IED). The blast resulted in the loss of both his legs, his left eye, and several fingers on his left hand.
Now medically retired, Isaac plays wheelchair basketball on Balboa Medical Center’s team, Wolf Pack. He also trains to stay in shape for mountain climbing.
He received his HFOT home in Fallbrook, CA on July 15, 2017. Click here to read his full story.
“We knew our lives would change for the better once we moved into our home. We could never have anticipated how much less stressful our day to day lives are. Homes For Our Troops gave us much more than a home; they have given us a chance to move forward with our lives.”
~ Army SGT Juan “Carlos” Vasquez
On Aug. 26, 2013, Army Sergeant Juan Carlos Vasquez, a combat engineer, was on his third combat tour. He was on a route clearance mission in Hasan Karez, Afghanistan, with Charlie Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, when the vehicle he was riding in drove over an improvised explosive device (IED). The blast resulted in the loss of his right leg.
Opting for the comfort of his wheelchair instead of wearing his prosthetic at home, Carlos faced obstacles in his previous living space. His home was not adapted, which made everyday activities like cooking and showering nearly impossible. With a new home from Homes For Our Troops, Carlos has wider doorways, lowered counters in the kitchen and an accessible bathroom, making these tasks and daily routines much easier. Living mortgage-free also allows him to focus on his college degree, and enables him to live worry free with his wife Lisa and their two children.
He received his home in New Braunfels, TX on June 9, 2017. Click here to read his full story.
“Being in our forever home has given my family security knowing that we are finally home and can begin to start rebuilding our new lives.”
~ 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 the garage working on cars, in the gym lifting weights or at home spending time and traveling with his four children and wife Nicole. While he may lead an active lifestyle, there are several challenges he faced in his previous home. His Homes For Our Troops home with an accessible bathroom, he says, 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, WA on September 23, 2017. Click here to read his full story.
“I am thankful to be able to have family over and a place to do it. We are truly blessed to have received the home. I cannot thank HFOT’s donors enough.”
~ Army MSG Eric Marts
Two improvised explosive device (IED) blasts during Army MSG Eric Marts’ 2006 deployment serving with the 2-136 Combined Arms Battalion, 34th Infantry Division in Fallujah, Iraq took his vision. Shortly after the first blast, he started losing vision in one of his eyes. He continued to serve, but after being in another blast, the condition worsened. The traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused swelling in his optic nerves, resulting in him going blind in both eyes. He has also undergone surgeries for neck and shoulder injuries and experiences balance issues.
Eric and Bobbie are happy to be living in a specially adapted custom Homes For Our Troops home where Eric has enough room for Deacon to guide Eric around and a security system is in place, making it safe for Eric to be home alone. Most importantly, they now have enough room to host their five grown children and grandchildren over for holidays and cookouts.
He received his home in Moorhead, MN on August 19, 2017. Click here to read his full story.
rebuilding lives: Then & Now: HFOT Veteran Home Recipient Samuel Shockley
THEN: On March 17, 2013, Army Staff Sergeant Samuel Shockley was on a route clearance mission with the 38th Engineer Company in Panjwai, Afghanistan, when he triggered an improvised explosive device (IED). The blast resulted in the loss of his legs above the knee, the amputation of several fingers, and severe damage to his right arm. In Sam’s previous home, simple daily tasks – like making a meal – were a challenge. He could not reach the shelves and cabinets in his wheelchair. His wife, Emely, was afraid to leave him home alone for fear he would hurt himself. The limited space in their home also prevented Sam and Emely from having guests over.
NOW: Sam’s specially adapted custom home in Washington has been life-changing. Ever since receiving the keys in September 2016, daily tasks have been much easier for him. He now has no trouble preparing his favorite dish, spaghetti and meatballs, thanks to the roll under sinks and lower countertops in his accessible kitchen. “The ability to transfer hot boiling water from the stove to the sink is now a safer and more efficient task,” he says. Sam and Emely have plenty of space to host family and friends. They celebrated Thanksgiving in their home for the first time this year. “I was excited to finally be able to host the holiday, which provided enough room to fit everyone in the home,” he says. “The home provided a wonderful experience and gratefulness to have everyone under one roof.” The freedom Sam regained from the home gives him the motivation and energy to pursue his goals. He is in college fulltime working toward a degree in business management, and hopes to get his pilot license. “The home has benefited my family by providing a great foundation, security, and financial freedom so my wife and I can use the money we would have spent on a mortgage to save and put toward a brighter future,” he says.
Message to HFOT’s Donors: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me and my wife a home that has forever changed my life for the better. You may not be able to see through my eyes what your gift has done for me, but let me say that I could not imagine any other home being more perfect for injured Veterans. I am truly appreciative of your help.”