Newell house becomes a home
It was a tearful moment for Army Sgt. Ryan Newell, 25, and his family when they accepted the keys to their new home Saturday, which was built by Homes For Our Troops, the community of Marion and others from around the state.
"Welcome home," said Larry Gill, veteran’s liaison with Homes for Our Troops, as he handed Newell the keys to his home and embraced him as an expression of gratitude for his sacrifices.
"You fought on our behalf for freedom and independence and now it’s our turn to give back to you," he said to Newell.
"This new home will give you complete accessibility and freedom."
More than 200 people watched the ceremonial procession start down the hill to the Newell’s new home on Tanglewood Lane.
The Fort Riley Color Guard led the way on horseback, followed by more than 100 veterans walking or riding motorcycles as "Proud to be an American" played in the background.
In addition to Gill speaking, the Marion Men’s Quartet sang, Marion City Mayor Mary Olson offered praised to the community and a representative from U.S. Congressman Jerry Moran’s office also spoke on his behalf.
Others recognized included project superintendent Ralph Kreutziger; lead contractor Davey Hett and the businesses and volunteers who made the dream a reality for the Newells.
One of Newell’s friends who served with him, Bradley Thompson, was also at the key ceremony Saturday.
Yet after all the speeches, the months of networking, planning, resourcing and hard work, the goal was reached, Gill said.
Ryan, Carrie and their children Ethan, 12, Skylar, 9, Rylee, 6, and Gabrielle, 4, now have a home of their own, and each of the children have their own rooms.
Everyone was invited to tour the home following the ceremony.
The project for Newell started more than seven months ago when he applied for a home through "Homes for Our Troops," after losing both legs from an Improvised Explosive Device in January 2009.
Newell, who spent several months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said he first learned about the organization while he was there.
"I filled out the applications and waited to hear back," he said.
By mid-April, the first phase of Newell’s new home was underway with help from veterans across the state, volunteers from the city of Marion, and additional help from Fort Riley.
The second phase of the project was the mechanical phase, requiring skilled electricians, plumbers and heating and air conditioning staff.
By early June, the project had entered into the third phase with volunteers completing floors, cabinets, installing Sheetrock and painting.
Receiving a home free and clear was a humbling experience for Newell.
When it comes to helping, he said he has always considered himself someone who gives and not receives.
"It isn’t easy accepting a new house, even though it will help my personal recovery," Newell said.
On Sunday, though, the family started moving into their home.
Olson said, "Now that Ryan is a resident of Marion, I hope he will consider volunteering in his community."
For Newell, helping the city has been something he is looking forward to doing.
"I want to become a big part of the community and give back for all that’s been given to me," he said.