Following a process lasting several years, Army Staff Sergeant Timothy Kramer received the keys to a new, specially adapted home during a ceremony Saturday at the Minatare High School Gymnasium.
A large crowd of well-wishers, volunteers, first responders and Air Force Jr. ROTC cadets from Scottsbluff High were on hand to help celebrate as Homes for Our Troops and several local dignitaries welcomed Kramer and his family to their new home, which is located a few miles north of Minatare.
Following remarks from several local dignitaries, HFOT Executive Director Bill Ivey and Kramer’s wife Cassidy, Kramer took the microphone telling his story, and just how the specially modified house will help play an even bigger role in the daily activities of his family
Kramer, who can walk with assistance but generally uses a wheelchair for mobility, noted that the home all on one level with no transitions will have a huge impact. “That transition, a lot of people think ‘that’s not too much’, but for somebody who is like me, that’s a lot. That little bit can mean a lot of me falling into my face into the wall, stuff like that. And the automatic doors, when you’re wheeling one of these things you don’t have many free hands, and using a cane you don’t have many free hands either. So to reach up and hit a button, just pat something by the wall and the door opens, I’m so looking forward to that,” said Kramer. “I’ll be truly more independent.”
SSgt Kramer’s new home, the 353rd such home built by HFOT, and the first one in Nebraska, features more than 40 major special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower, and kitchen amenities that include pull-down shelving and lowered countertops. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, including navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds, riding on carpets, or reaching for cabinets that are too high.
Beyond the impact the new home will have for him personally, Kramer said he plans on using the house as a base to help him pay it forward. “One thing we’d like to do with the lake so close, I’d like to start something for other veterans who have trouble transitioning to a disability or injured lifestyle, and show them they still can go out and fish, can still go out and hunt, it just takes a little more time to do those things, a little more patience,” said Kramer. “To me, nature is God’s beauty, and if you can get out in that, that only reduces your stress that much more. The more you do that, the better you can be.
The impact of rapid snowmelt and the resulting muddy roads prevented the ceremony from taking place at the home as originally planned, and a wintertime build also means one final piece has yet to be finished at the house. HFOT officials say one final volunteer event will take place in late spring, for the laying of sod in the yard.
“The struggle I’ve been through, the journey we’ve been through, is now moving past us as we write the next chapter,” said Kramer in the closing of his remarks, “and I just can’t wait to see the memories we’re going to make, the fun and laughter that we’re going to have, with that little piece of heaven up there.”