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.