About 100 people were on hand over the weekend to show their support and celebrate the start of a construction effort anticipated to end this summer with a new home for an area veteran injured while serving in Iraq.
The Rock Church hosted the kick-off in Scottsbluff Saturday by the nationwide non-profit Homes For Our Troops, which is building a specially designed custom home for Army Staff Sergeant Timothy Kramer, his wife, Cassidy, and their three daughters.
Starting with a motor escort of law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders, the program included remarks by Scottsbluff Mayor Jeanne McKerrigan and Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman, as well as recorded appearances by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs Director John Hilgert, all thanking the organization for their support of the effort and wishing Kramer well.
Executive Director Bill Ivey said the mission of HFOT, “Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives”, is much more than another construction effort. “Because of the injuries they’ve sustained defending our freedom and independence, they were robbed of some of their freedom and independence. So, this is not charity work, this is helping the American People repay a debt that we owe these women and men,” said Ivey. “And we think that building a fully-accessible home, that’s fully-accessible to someone in a wheelchair, and taking a mortgage off the table, helps out a lot to get them moving forward again.”
On Aug. 6, 2006, while on his second deployment to Iraq, SSG Kramer was transporting detainees when his unit encountered enemy fire and their vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device (IED). Despite sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI), Timothy remained in theater through the end of his deployment. Upon returning to the United States, his health began to decline. In 2009, Timothy experienced a stroke, resulting in the loss of use of his left hand and foot, bilateral hearing loss, seizures, and traumatic headaches.
Kramer thanked his wife and family for helping him reach where he is in life, and said HFOT’s effort will transform all of their lives. “They’re going to lessen the burden on my family, off of what they have to help me with. When you get injured like this, it’s the little things that matter that people, I think, don’t see: making dinner for your family on the stove, putting them in their crib, swinging with them,” said Kramer. “I can’t stay on a swing, I can’t ride on a bike, but with this organization, they’re going to give me that freedom.”
Since its inception in 2004, HFOT has built 325 homes for veterans across the country, and the new home to be built on a small piece of land north of Minatare is the first such project in Nebraska for the organization. Ivey choked up briefly describing his relationship with Kramer, who was part of Ivey’s personal service detachment in Iraq and was injured about a week after Ivey left the country, and so this build was personal to him.
Ivey said Kramer’s injuries have done nothing to diminish his drive to serve others, “and he’s still working forward, serving his family, serving his community, coaching basketball. One of his goals when he moves into the home is to use part of the property he has to set up an opportunity for retreats for other folks and wounded veterans, to help them recover and refocus.”
Homes For Our Troops relies on contributions from donors, supporters, and corporate partners for the building of each Veteran’s home, with approx. 90 percent of all donations going toward home building efforts. Community members may hold fundraisers or make donations, and there will be a community volunteer day to help with landscaping as the construction nears completion.
To find out more on how to get involved or make a donation visit www.hfotusa.org.