Army of volunteers building home for Iraq war veteran who lost his legs
Town of Eagle — An army of volunteers kicked off a construction blitz Wednesday to build a home for Army Spc. Jason M. Schulz, a soldier who lost both his legs in Iraq when a roadside bomb detonated and shrapnel ripped through his vehicle.
Schulz, 23, and his wife, Polina, 21, watched in awe as about 50 workers from the region began framing the house on a lot in the Eagle's Preserve subdivision.
In three days, workers in this "build brigade" expect to get the house framed, put on the roof and install the siding, doors and windows.
"I think it's amazing that all these people are stepping out to do this. It's awesome," said Schulz, who grew up in West Allis and chose the Town of Eagle as the site for his home.
The house is being built through Homes for Our Troops, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit founded in 2004 that has been building free wheelchair-accessible homes for veterans seriously injured and disabled in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Homes for Our Troops finds local builders who are willing to donate their time, and then they work together to line up donated labor and materials.
Kevin Kain of Kain Construction is the general contractor and is overseeing construction of the $300,000 three-bedroom ranch home on donated property on Eagle's Preserve Drive.
"I did not hesitate to say yes," Kain said about when he was approached to help Schulz.
When he asked others for help, even his competitors, Kain said they didn't waver, either.
Volunteers - carpenters, electricians, plumbers and others - said they just wanted to be a part of something to help honor soldiers in general and Schulz in particular.
Firefighters raise money
Milwaukee Fire Department captains Dan Lipski and Brian McNulty were watching as the walls were erected. With firefighter Jeff Venus, who is deployed in Iraq, they helped raise $38,500 through the sale of $10 red T-shirts and donated it toward the construction of the Schulz home.
Lipski, McNulty and 10 other firefighters raised another $10,000 through a separate fund-raiser and donated it to Homes for Our Troops to be used for other projects.
On Thursday, about 30 cadets from the Challenge Academy alternative school at Fort McCoy, near Tomah, will be at the construction site to lend a hand. Schulz is an academy graduate.
Schulz, who is out of the Army, and Polina, who is in the Army, expect to move into the home after the birth of their child in January. They are living in San Antonio, Texas, where Polina is stationed and where Schulz is getting rehabilitation therapy.
Schulz was injured Nov. 7, 2007, in Mosul. He said he was in a truck and on his way to recover a special forces truck when the roadside bomb exploded.
"I saw the windshield crack from the inside. My right hand was hanging partway off. I felt horrible pain in my legs. I passed out and woke up in the hospital, and my legs were gone," Schulz said.
Surgeons were able to reattach his right hand.
Once back in Wisconsin, Schulz said, he plans to attend college and hopes to get a business degree.
Schulz's home is the second house Homes for Our Troops has undertaken in Wisconsin. This year, it finished a house in Sun Prairie for Chuck Isaacson, a soldier who was paralyzed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
Kain expects Schulz's home will be finished by Christmas, thanks to the outpouring of help from dozens and dozens of volunteers and donors.