On his second tour of duty, 25-year-old Army Staff Sergeant Matthew Keil was hit by sniper fire near Ramadi, Iraq. The injury left him a quadriplegic.
When Keil returned, he was confined to a wheelchair and no longer able to live in his own home. The wounded warrior couldn't access the second-floor apartment and the small doorways made it impossible for him to move about freely.
Unable to afford the adaptive amenities they needed, Keil and his wife turned to Homes for our Troops, an organization that builds houses for men and women injured in war. The nonprofit built the couple a home in Parker, Colo., complete with roll-under countertops and toilets, voice-activated controls, and wide doorways.
"I rode through my house now and I see a place where I'm going to raise a family and have a place to live for the rest of my life," said Keil as he was given the keys in 2008. "Your fingerprints are throughout our entire home now and it couldn't be done without you. So thank you very much. You'll always be part of our family and we love you."
While it's true that the majority of our brave men and women in uniform have come home safe, others suffer from injuries as profound as Keil's. Prosthetics have taken the place of legs, arms, and hands. Holding a child is a challenge; hugging a spouse is a distant memory.
Since 2001, 2 million of our nation's sons and daughters have answered the call of duty. Over 5,000 of these brave men and women have been killed. Over 40,000 have suffered physical injuries. Of those 40,000, some have paid a terrible price, suffering injuries so severe that they must rely on others for care, losing much of their independence. These severely injured veterans have a desperate need for specially-adapted homes that will help restore the independence they have lost.
On a daily basis, severely wounded veterans face many obstacles and barriers that impede movement, even in the homes and apartments where they live. Many of these veterans now must rely on a full-time care provider or family member to assist them in preparing meals, bathing or looking after younger family members.
Homes for Our Troops exists to give these veterans, at no cost, a barrier-free home that "gives back" the freedom and independence they once enjoyed. A home that helps our veterans reintegrate with their families and reintegrate with their communities all across our great nation.
On Nov. 10, 2009, Matt and Tracy welcomed twins Matthew and Faith into the world. The babies were conceived through in vitro fertilization, a procedure the couple admittedly would not have been able to afford had they not received their home for free.
For the Keils, their new home represented a new beginning. It was an opportunity to live free of the barriers and the chance to have a family; a dream he and his wife Tracy had all but abandoned.
We are committed -- now more than ever -- to building 100 More...Homes for Our Troops; a goal we will pursue with unwavering determination. My goal is to continue building on our legacy and serving our severely injured veterans and their families.
Our motto says it all, "Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives."