Then & Now: Marine SSgt Omar Milan

Categories: Blog, Home, Veteran topic

THEN: Immediately after being seriously injured in Afghanistan in 2012, Marine Staff Sergeant Omar Milan’s main concern was getting back to his family. He had lost his right leg and several fingers in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion, and his condition was so severe his wife, daughters, parents, and sister traveled to be at his bedside in Germany. Omar started to improve within days, and he believes his family’s presence and hearing their voices gave him the strength he needed to pull through.

After arriving back in the United States, Omar was ready to focus on his recovery, but did not fully understand the challenges ahead. He was disheartened when he realized the impact of the non-wheelchair accessible home he and his wife Michelle bought before his deployment. This environment caused much frustration for Omar and prevented him from enjoying the activities he loves, especially spending time with Michelle and their two daughters, Rachel and Vanessa. As a way to cope, Omar sought activities he could do to help his recovery. Having always had an interest in woodworking, Omar felt drawn to the hobby because it was a way for him to use his hands again. He started out by putting small objects together and gradually worked his way to larger projects, but there was still one thing in the way of Omar taking his woodworking to the next level – his non-accessible home. Omar did not have much space in their home, so he was unable to tackle larger projects.

NOW: Living in his specially adapted Homes For Our Troops custom home, Omar has been able to immerse himself in his woodworking, and now sells his work at a local store and on his Facebook page, The Box Fin Woodshop. Omar makes and sells items such as large wooden American flags and crosses. His greatest accomplishment is a desk he made as a present for his daughter’s birthday. “At one point, while going through physical therapy, I never would have imagined ever being able to do something like this,” he says.

Omar feels a great sense of pride and accomplishment from his work, and he is grateful to HFOT’s donors and supporters for giving him this opportunity. Most of all, Omar is thankful to be able to be more present with his family. “My outlook on life has always been positive, but it is even more so with the home,” he says.

Michelle says she is overjoyed to see her husband thriving in a safe and comfortable environment. The home has empowered her to pursue her career, and she is currently in school for nursing. “Our home has made me a better mother and wife. I can spend more time on my personal health goals and can travel alone without worry,” she says.