America Supports You: New Partnership Results in Home for Wounded Soldier
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
FORT COLLINS, Colo., Aug. 13, 2007 A troop-support group and a national home-building company launched their new partnership with a surprise announcement during an Aug. 11 event here.
John Gonsalves of Homes for Our Troops (left), Tracy Keil (center), Gabe Lopez of Pulte Homes and Army Sgt. Matthew Keil (seated) are all smiles at American Military Family's "Hoedown for Heroes" event Aug. 11, 2007 in Fort Collins, Colo. Defense Dept. photo by David Evans
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Homes for Our Troops and Pulte Homes announced their intent to build an adapted home for Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Keil and his wife, Tracy, during the “Hoedown for Heroes” charity event put on by another troop-support group, American Military Family.
Keil “volunteered for his first tour (in Iraq) because he was single and had hoped to take the place of someone who was either married or had kids,” said John Gonsalves, Homes for Our Troops’ founder, adding Keil had returned unscathed from that tour. “Then he got married and got sent back as … the kind of person that he (had volunteered) to take the place of.”
The 25-year-old soldier was hit by sniper fire near Ramadi, Iraq, in February. The injury left him a quadriplegic, though he has regained some use of his left arm.
It’s that selfless act that stood out for Gonsalves and for Debbie Quackenbush, the founder of American Military Family’s founder.
Quackenbush had contacted Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public liaison and internal communications, about Keil’s situation. Barber, who also designed the America Supports You program, sent that information off to Gonsalves.
America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad. Both American Military Family and Homes for Our Troops are supporters of the program.
“It just so happened I had been working with Pulte Homes on trying to form up a partnership with them,” Gonsalves said. “What they wanted to do for 2007 was identify a couple of vets in specific areas; one of them was Denver.”
Keil is from the Denver area. When Pulte Homes officials learned this, they never hesitated, Gonsalves said.
Gabriel Lopez, a representative of Pulte Homes, said his company is very pleased with this opportunity to help.
“To participate in this is exactly what our company is about,” Lopez said. “Our employees are excited to volunteer for it. This is a mission that is worthwhile for us.”
Hoedown for Heroes was already planned, and the Keils were scheduled to be guests of honor, so the groups decided there was no better time to make the announcement.
“It was one of those things that I think was just meant to be because it all fell right into place,” Gonsalves said before the event. “I’m hoping I can get through it without getting too choked up. I’m glad to be able to do this.”
Gonsalves said Homes for Our Troops is looking for land to build the home on in Parker, Colo., where Keil’s wife has family. As part of the design process, Keil will be able to pick the technology that will be most helpful to him.
“We’ll talk to him about it and go over the types of things we do, and then we’ll design (the home) around that,” Gonsalves said. “There’s a lot of technology out there that we’ve learned about over the past few years, so really, there’s no limits to what we can do.”
Homes for Our Troops has completed 15 homes for severely injured troops and has 20 more under way, he said.
The Hoedown for Heroes event was American Military Family’s salute to servicemembers. The organization offers numerous programs in support of servicemembers and their families, including help with household maintenance, emergency financial assistance, and significant family events such as birthdays and anniversaries, according to the group’s Web site.