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Nonprofit Group To Build Homes for Disabled Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2004 – Concerned about the welfare of troops returning home with disabilities from the war on terror, a new nonprofit group is raising money to build houses adapted to their needs.

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Homes for Our Troops founder John Gonsalves, left, discusses plans for the group to build a house for Sgt. Peter Damon during Damon's treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

Homes for Our Troops is the brainchild of John Gonsalves, a construction supervisor from Wareham, Mass., who said he was struck by television news accounts of a humvee driver in Iraq who lost two legs during a rocket-propelled grenade attack. "I remember watching that and wondering, 'What happens to him from here?'" Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves said that news story inspired him to volunteer his services to an organization that builds houses for disabled troops but he couldn't find one. "That planted the seed for Homes for Our Troops," he said. "I knew that if I didn't get a group together and try to do this, it would haunt me the rest of my life."

When he launched Homes for Our Troops, Gonsalves admitted that he "knew nothing about nonprofits, but I did know how to build a house." He'd built houses adapted for people with special needs, incorporating ramps, wider doors and hallways, and lower sinks and counters, among other features.

Today, seven weeks after Homes for Our Troops began raising money, more than $100,000 in donations has rolled in, as well as $50,000 in labor and building materials. "Feedback has been phenomenal," said Gonsalves, who said he has received donations from all over the United States.

Homes for Our Troops hopes to break ground soon for its first project, a house for Sgt. Peter Damon, a Massachusetts National Guard soldier who lost his right arm above the elbow and his left hand and wrist in Iraq when a Black Hawk helicopter tire he was changing exploded.

Gonsalves said he hopes to have several houses under construction by this summer if fundraising continues at its current pace. "There's more than enough money in this country to do something like that," he said.

He encourages donors to give, regardless of the amount. "It doesn't have to be a large amount. It all adds up," he said.

Gonsalves said Homes for Our Troops is a way for Americans many of whom he said have gone on with their daily lives with little personal contribution to the terror war or awareness about how to make one to help repay the debt they owe to the men and women in uniform.

"The war on terror is something the American people should all be a part of not just the people on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq," Gonsalves said. "As Americans, we have a responsibility to do more for our veterans who are out there fighting every day and putting their lives on the line."

To make a donation to Homes for Our Troops, visit the organization's Web site or write: Homes for Our Troops, Inc., P.O. Box 615, Buzzards Bay, MA 02532.

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