Veterans opens door to new home, new life
June 1, 2007COVENTRY - Standing in front of a pale blue house, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Sgt. Jared Luce reached out his hand and took hold of the keys to the building behind him.
Welcome home, friend," said John Gonsalves, president of Homes for Our Troops.
The house they stood in front of is one of 17 built with the help of Homes for Our Troops, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that builds and adapts homes for wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Friday, Homes for Our Troops held a key presentation ceremony to officially open the house to Luce, who lost both of his legs and suffered damage to his left hand and left eye in Iraq when the vehicle he was riding in hit a landmine.
Dozens of local and national corporations, as well as countless people, donated time and materials to help construct Luce's house. It took just under a year to clear the land and build the home.
"This all happened because of the community," Gonsalves said. "We could raise all the money in the world, but it couldn't come together without people getting involved."
The official ceremony consisted of remarks from Gonsalves, several area politicians, and people involved in the project. Luce also was presented with a flag that was flown at the U.S. Capitol.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal spoke about the need to support the sacrifice made by veterans, regardless of personal beliefs about the war.
"Whatever we think of the war, whatever we call it, Iraq or Afghanistan, we owe our military men and women our unconditional support," he said.
Gonsalves also said supporting veterans was not a partisan issue.
"Supporting our troops is not a left thing or a right thing. It is the right thing," he said.
Gonsalves started Homes for Our Troops in 2004 after hearing about a soldier who was severely injured in war. Gonsalves said he wanted to join an organization that helped build homes for returning veterans, but at the time no such organization existed. Rather than do nothing, Gonsalves decided to start his own organization.
Now, more than two years later, Homes for Our Troops has completed 17 homes for veterans, and currently is working on another 21. Gonsalves also said another 10 to 15 are being planned for the near future.
Homes for Our Troops also held a groundbreaking ceremony in Coventry on Friday for a home for Cpl. Brian Johnston. Johnston lost his right leg and arm in Fallujah after the vehicle he was riding in hit an improvised explosive device.
According to Gonsalves, this is the first time Homes for Our Troops has worked on two projects in the same town.
Luce said he couldn't wait to move into the new home with his wife, Melanie, and three children Caelan, Donovan, and J.J. He also thanked all of the people who helped to make the home a reality.
"I'm just amazed that so many people got involved," Luce said. "This wouldn't have been possible without all your help."
He added, "I'm just amazed so many people got involved."