Calhoun home weathers minor setbacks
Driving onto the land May 26 to tour the progress, a pond sits on the right hand side of the property where former Staff Sgt. Heath Calhoun’s new home is being built.
By the pond sits a dock, obscured by grass that’s waiting to be cut by one of Calhoun’s friends.
The former 101st Airborne Division Soldier and paralympic athlete said he and his wife both prefer living out in the open, and are looking forward to getting away from the suburbs.
Calhoun said he’s not a fan of living in the suburbs and prefers the outdoors to cramped living spaces. "I want a chicken coop so bad I can’t stand it," Calhoun said. "When Homes for our Troops called us, we told them we wanted to live in the country."
Growing up in the mountains, Calhoun said he had access to endless acres of wooded land, and the land around the new home isn’t much different.
These days, the oft-followed wounded warrior has become a picture of motivation for others. In 2003, Calhoun’s convoy was attacked in Iraq, but he exceeded expectations after the fallout of losing both legs, and began his run toward a paralympic career with the assistance of his prosthetic legs.
Home progress update
Setbacks from weather haven’t discouraged the Calhoun Family from seeing their dreams come true when their new adaptive home comes to completion.
Area flooding recently put a temporary cap on work that’s already progressed fairly well. Calhoun said there’s not much going on at the moment due to the halt.
But the delay didn’t appear to cause Calhoun any frustration when visiting the site. "We’re not bothered by it," Calhoun said. "Just waiting to get a few more things donated. My builder wants to go ahead and get us moved in."
A "Build Brigade" of community support recently raised walls on day one, and despite a day two interruption when flood rains began, the three-day efforts were considered a win, said Homes for our Troops Construction Manager Jason Earls.
"It was a very successful build brigade," he said. "We installed windows, vinyl siding and roof shingles. Good opportunity to help someone who’s given us so much. It’s rewarding to give back in this way."
Construction on the Calhoun home has been held up for a few weeks now, but during the Build Brigade, Earls said a good turnout showed the community’s support.
From Miami to Chattanooga to New York state, Calhoun said, "People came from all over to participate. It was rainy, muddy and sloppy, but they just kept working."
By the end of the Build Brigade, the home was weather-tight, still, the main task after flooding, Earls said, was cleaning out the basement following the floods.
"Nothing had to be replaced," he said. "We just had to pump a lot of water out."
Donations from the community determine the work phase on the house, but the Calhouns are entering the home stretch.
"A lot of people were willing to not get paid to work on the house," Calhoun said. "To have people who work so hard, means a lot to Tiffany, me and the kids."
Some internal components of the house, like electrical wiring and plumbing, have needed further supplies before electricians and plumbers can go forward.
"Plumbing will be installed," Earls said. "We’re trying to evaluate to find a time frame on getting Heath and his Family moved in."
Jimmy Miller Construction Company led the Build Brigade through most of the initial work. "We did the finish [work] in the end," Earls said. "This time, we finished in the beginning."
Through the different work phases, Earls said the goal is to let donations stay ahead of the work so the supplies don’t run out.
Volunteers will soon brick the back side of the house, around the entry to a basement that will create easy access for Heath to enter the basement from outside.
During a tour of the unfinished home, Calhoun made his way up and down the stairs that lead to his basement, but he won’t have to, since both the front and back door entries are even with the ground.
"The doors are wider for wheelchair accessibility," Earls said. The walk-out basement and doors at all levels lead directly outside, making it easier on Calhoun to move through the house. "I can do stairs," Calhoun said.
If he needs to, he can easily go down and has a quick way back out that leads around the house and back in through the front.
There are other plans for after the Family moves in. Heath hopes to include the addition of a garage so he can work on cars, while his wife wants a pool, and Heath hopes to have a place to set up a "man cave."
The next stage of construction for Calhoun’s home was set to start this week, following the Memorial Day holiday.
The Web site for HFOT shows that companies still needed to complete the driveway, drywall, flooring, insulation, kitchen and bath installations, landscaping, lighting, millwork, painting and title insurance.
For more information on Homes for our Troops, e-mail ROneill@homesforourtroops.org or call (866) 7-TROOPS.