‘Homes for Our Troops’ comes to our backyard
- Written by Cheryl "CJ" Johnson
On Jan. 7, Larry Archer, construction manager for the Homes for Our Troops Build Brigade, kicked off a three-day Build Brigade, including a special motorcade and escort led by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Luis Davila-Toro. The purpose of the effort is to construct a new home for Naval Petty Officer Anthony Thompson, his wife Ivonne, and their 2-year-old son, A.J. Thompson was on his second deployment to Iraq with the Second Battalion, the Marines Fox Company Third Platoon near Fallujah, when he was injured during a terrorist attack. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive under an overpass where Thompson and fellow Marines had taken up post on April 7, 2007. Thompson suffered a traumatic brain injury, an incomplete spinal cord injury and a punctured right lung.Due to the substantial injuries he sustained, Thompson is now a quadriplegic and cannot communicate or eat on his own. He is currently in New Jersey at the Kessler Rehabilitation Center that specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries. “You don’t understand what it’s like to be here at 8:45 this morning and see nothing but a slab, and now, look at this, it’s amazing!,” said his wife, Ivonne, as she pointed to the half framed home at 3 p.m. “And look at the amount of people who have shown up and are just putting their heart and soul into this. This is exactly what community is all about!” Some of the local helpers include Rick Alspaugh, owner of Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware, who is not only lending his own time and muscle to the building efforts for the entire three days, but has also donated all of the paint needed for the house, a new barbecue pit, and the hauling of all the debris in special trucks. Other locals like John Lavezzari and son Brian, general contractors from GMB Inc., have partnered with Homes for Our Troops to build the specially adapted home for Thompson. Because of his special needs, the house will be ADA compliant which includes extra-wide halls, rails throughout the house, and pulleys to help his caretakers move him around. Also seen helping out and supporting the efforts were Gwendolyn Condoleo-Crawford from the mayors office and Officer Dwayne Ulrich with the Houston Police Dept. Commonly, the three-day Build Brigade puts the foundation down, frames, and puts the roof, doors and windows in. The framed house is “finished” in those three days; however, the plumbing, electrical work and rest of the build out, will take as much as 2-3 months. Homes for Our Troops is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Taunton, Mass. founded by John Gonsalves in 2004. (www.homesforourtroops.org). The mission is to build specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. All homes are built at no cost to the veteran thanks to donations from thousands of individuals, foundation grants, corporate sponsors, professional tradespeople and generous support from countless volunteers. Upon completion, there will be a “key ceremony” and dedication of the home to the family. “I can’t wait to get all three of us in here and start living our life, whatever that new life is going to be like, and start living that life,” said Ivonne. Photos: (Top) Framed house was put up in a matter of hours. Photos by C.J. Johnson (Bottom) Kingwood resident and general contractor John Lavezzari.