New home for wounded vet
Volunteers will build specially equipped houseMELBOURNE - It was quite a welcome.
Veterans, friends and new neighbors applauded and cheered as Russ Marek moved slowly with the aid of a walker from a limousine to the lot where his specially equipped home will be built. He'd arrived at the site in a motorcade of police cars and about 50 motorcycles driven by veterans from Legion Riders.
"It's a good feeling," said Marek, an Army staff sergeant from Satellite Beach who was severely wounded in Iraq. "I never knew so many people cared."
More than 100 people gathered Friday afternoon at the lot on Croghan Drive in the Capron Ridge development of Viera to mark the start of construction of a home being built with community support by Homes for Our Troops, which builds and adapts homes for severely wounded troops.
"Russ, I'd like to welcome you to your new neighborhood," said Kirt Rebello, vice president of Homes for Our Troops. "This is no payback, but it's definitely the least we coulddo."
Marek was serving in Iraq with the Army's 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, when he was critically wounded Sept. 16, 2005, in a roadside bombing. He lost his right arm and right leg and suffered a brain injury and burns over 20 percent of his body.
Marek spent months in military and veterans hospitals and now lives with his parents in Satellite Beach as he undergoes physical therapy.
Rebello said the organization, based in Taunton, Mass., is on a six-month schedule to build the house. Metalcon donated the framing structure, with Holiday Builders serving as the general contractors. Many other companies and community organizations are also participating.
Marek's new 2,200-square-foot home will have three bedrooms and will include automatic doors, an accessible shower, grab bars and a specially made cabinet with shelves that automatically lower -- all features that should help the injured vet take full use of his new surroundings.
Neighbors stepped out of their homes in the new subdivision Friday to meet Marek and his family.
"We feel honored that this is happening in our neighborhood," Lori Hillenbrand said.
Homes for Our Troops builds new homes or rebuilds existing homes to make them handicapped-accessible for severely wounded service members. It does it at no cost to the veterans, relying on monetary contributions, donations from building contractors, suppliers, corporations and local volunteers. Marek's home will be the first Homes for Our Troops project in Brevard.
"Communities all across the country have stepped up," Rebello said. "When this house is done, it will be a reflection of the community."