BY JILL RICHARDSON
Kuna Melba News reporter
People lined the streets outside 36 S. Marko Lane last Friday to welcome Lance Cpl. Randal Wright—escorted by the flashing lights of Kuna Fire Department and Kuna Police, along with the roar of motorcycles driven by flag-waving veterans—to the site of his future home.
Wright was left a triple amputee after stepping on an IED while securing a compound in Afghanistan on May 7, 2010. In October, he will receive the keys to a home that was built when professional tradesmen and community volunteers came together in Kuna last weekend.
Jessi Sams, a volunteer with Treasure Valley Blue Star Mothers of America, said she was proud to help Wright any way she could and pitched in by directing traffic, serving lunch and performing other tasks throughout her shift.
“Does he know me?” she asked. “No, but he went over and fought for me. I don’t know him, either, but I am going to fight for him today.”
The 2,600-square-foot home will provide Wright with maximum freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently; it is completely wheelchair accessible and has four bedrooms, two baths, a two-car garage, covered back porch and sits on a one-acre parcel in Kuna. And it won’t cost him a cent.
The home-building project was facilitated by Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), a Massachusetts-based national non-profit organization that assists severely injured veterans by raising the money, building materials, professional labor and community volunteers necessary to build a home that offers as much independent living as possible and providing the home at no cost.
The weekend-long project kicked off with opening ceremonies Friday, July 20.
Presentation of colors were provided by Charlie Company 4th Tank Battalion, and, along with Wright, speakers included Master of Ceremony Larry Gill, Pastor Stan Johnson with the invocation, Kuna Mayor Greg Nelson, construction manager John Cotner, and Sgt. Adam Kisielewski.
Kisielewski, who received a home from HFOT about a year ago in Maryland, expressed the impact on his life.
“I am able to take my (prosthetic) leg off at the end of the day, where before I had to wear it 20 hours a day,” he said. “If my kid needs me in the middle of the night, I can get him with my wheelchair. “
Kisielewski said he and his family moved into the new home about a year ago.
“Since then I can’t tell you how much my life has improved,” he told the crowd gathered for Friday’s opening ceremony. “I am more physically active. This would not be a possibility if it wasn’t for Home for Our Troops and your support.”
And Wright, Kisielewski predicted, would also be feeling the impacts of that support.
“One of the biggest things that will impact Randal is the community support he is going to see out here today,” Kisielewski said. “For him to see how many people out there actually care about him and his situation, and want to make a difference in his life—that will go with him for the rest of his life. The home obviously will make a tremendous difference in his quality of life and standard of living, but I think the community support is that thing that will impact him the most.”
Wright’s new home will also be Energy Star certified for maximum efficiency.
Ingo Stroup of Meridian’s Building Energy Inc. was on site to inspect and check for the certification.
“This ensures the energy bills for Wright are half of what they are for standard construction,” Stroup said. “The less he has to figure for the building to sustain him, the easier it is for him to live comfortably and not have to worry about high heating and cooling bills or being comfortable.”
At the homesite, the concrete pad was poured and the walls were framed and ready to be raised before 8 a.m. Friday.
The home’s outer shell was complete by Sunday, with HVAC, electric and plumbing work scheduled for completion by midweek.
“This is only the start,” said John Cotner of Cotner Building Company in Meridian, general contractor for the project. “We still have the entire interior of the house yet to build.”
Cotner said Sept. 15 was set as “Volunteer Day,” when landscaping will go in.
“We need help from the community for donations of topsoil, sod, grass seed, bushes, plants, everything,” he said.
Wright should get a set of house keys in time for his 26th birthday on Oct. 23.
There will be a key ceremony after everything is completed to turn the house keys over to Wright.
Cotner is hoping that the volunteers can help him head up making this home completely turnkey with furnishing and a pantry full of food.
Over the course of the weekend, each volunteer had his or her own motivation to help with the project.
Some said they are currently serving or previously served in the military, or have a service member in the family. Others said they came out in an effort to thank Wright for his service and sacrifice.
Lindy Bower and Darlene Blakeslee, of ERA West Wind, sold the lot to Home for Our Troops about three months ago, and said it took about two months for HFOT to find the right lot—one acre and flat, so it is wheelchair accessible.
They were both on site serving as volunteers for the project.
“It’s always a really good experience,” commented Blakeslee about her line of work. “But every once in a while you get to help somebody that you feel is really, really special.”
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Bower added.
Among the framers on the project was Colleen Walker of New Plymouth. Walker served with the U.S. Marines for seven years, but came home when her parents got sick. She now serves in the Air Guard as a sexual assault and domestic violence response coordinator. With Walker’s experience in framing and woodworking, this project was a must for her to get involved with, she said.
Cheryl Miller, of Boise, a representative of Treasure Valley Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc, said thousands of dollars in food and drink donations had come in by Friday and more were coming in as the days passed.
Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. was created for those who have a son or daughter serving or has served and received an honorable discharge from any branch of the military. Homes for Our Troops have been the Blue Star Mothers of America’s president project for the past three years.
Miller has four grandchildren currently serving, and has had two sons, two brothers and her husband all serve in the military.
Home for Our Troops was established in 2004 and has provided 114 specially adapted homes for severely wounded veterans. According to Larry Gill there are roughly 1,600 veterans classified as severely wounded.
“We have a long way to go still,” he said.
For more information, or to volunteer time or supplies to the Sept. 15 landscaping project, visit www.homesforourtroops.org/wright