America Supports You: Group Builds Custom Home for Wounded Warrior
By Toni Maltagliati
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2007 A former Army sergeant and his family are settling into a brand new house this month in New Bern, N.C., custom-built to insure his war injuries will not keep him from independent living.
Enjoying the first moments in their new home, Eric and Stephanie Edmundson, front, are joined by Donna and Bill Russell of Kit Corp., left, and John Gonsalves, far right, president and Founder of Homes for Our Troops. Photo courtesy Homes for Our Troops
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Well, we need the house because Eric is in a wheelchair all the time, so we need it so he can get around the house by himself,” said Stephanie Edmundson, wife of Eric Edmundson. The former soldier was wounded by a roadside bomb while riding in a Stryker armored vehicle, Oct. 2, 2005, in Iraq, according to Homes for Our Troops officials, which took on the project for the family. The explosion left Edmundson unable to talk, walk, eat or drink, though he does have the ability to move his legs.
The home features wide doorways, an open architecture without hallways, lower counters, sturdy hand rails and other hardware for accessibility.
“He can move his chair with his feet,” she said. “So he can help himself. … Quality of life is important in having Eric home, being able to be a husband and dad.”
More than a dozen businesses in the New Bern area donated building materials, engineering services and labor for the project. In the end, the total cost for Homes for Our Troops was $5,000. Since the project came in so far under budget, another home will be built for another wounded warrior, said John Gonsalves, president of the group.
“This is one of nine homes that we’re going to dedicate between now and the end of the year,” said Gonsalves.
A key-handover ceremony was held Oct. 6, before the family moved in. A military honor guard and local government officials, residents and business owners gathered to watch the former sergeant’s wife sit in his lap so he could carry her over the threshold of their new house.
“They are just an awesome family, the three of them together … their gratitude,” said Donna Russell, who with her husband Bill Russell, own the Kit Corp., which acted as lead contractor for the project. “He just brought things home … for us, so that we understand the sacrifices that they make every day.”
The only visual difference for the suburban home on the outside is a long, gradual ramp system at the entrance. Indoors, hardwood floors, crown molding, tile and marble ensure the house blends in well with nearby homes.
“One of the things I always say about our projects is that they end up being a reflection of the community,” said Kirt Rebello, chief project officer at Homes for Our Troops. “And if you look at this house, the community really stepped up.”
Donating their resources was not a difficult decision for the local business people, according to Donna Russell.
“It just makes us proud to be able to do something so small to touch their lives to make it a little better,” she said.