After two tours with the U.S. Marines and suffering major injuries during his deployment, Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer is finally coming home to the western communities, courtesy of Homes For Our Troops (HFOT), a nationwide nonprofit that builds homes for veterans at no charge.
In 2011, Dwyer sustained severe injuries to his arm after stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) and has undergone more than 50 surgeries since then.
“The biggest issues that I have dealt with physically since the injury is the amputation of my left leg above the knee. This required the use of a prosthetic leg,” Dwyer explained. “I am currently undergoing intensive rehabilitation to improve my range of motion, as well as learning how to walk again. I am able to focus on the rehabilitation and recover with the support and care of my family, especially my wife Meghan.”
As the Dwyers continue to work on building a new life, they knew it would require finding a permanent place to call home. With Liam’s physical restrictions, it would need to be someplace truly special.
“We heard about Homes For Our Troops through other wounded warriors and their families while I was completing the medical board process at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland,” Dwyer said. “The application process was fairly simple, and within 24 hours of completing the application, we received a call from a representative thanking us for applying and that our information was going to be reviewed.”
HFOT, founded in 2004, is a nonprofit that builds specially adapted custom homes for veterans. These homes are built with more than 40 special adaptations offered, from roll-under sinks and lower countertops to wider doorways and accessible showers.
“Right now, we have completed more than 270 homes nationwide and 79 projects are underway,” HFOT marketing associate Teresa Verity said. “We have built in 42 states. The homes provide a safe and comfortable living environment for veterans, who are then able to go back to pursuing careers or back to school. The rebuilding of a life aspect of the home is an important part of our mission.”
Dwyer and his wife began their search for a new area to rebuild their lives and found themselves exploring central Palm Beach County due to its close proximity to family.
“Meghan and I found our plot of land in our dream neighborhood while training my Golden Retriever, Stella, to be my service dog,” Dwyer said. “Paws 4 Liberty is a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs for veterans. As Meghan and I would attend weekly training sessions, we would drive around Lake Worth/Wellington area to explore the town. We fell in love with our neighborhood and knew that this was our forever home.”
HFOT provides a unique service in that upon completion of the home, veterans and their families can begin rebuilding their lives without worrying about fees or mortgage payments. The process is complex, taking years for accepted applicants to find property, the organization to procure it and align with local contractors to complete construction.
“Once construction kicks off, it is typically six to eight months before the house is ready,” Verity said. “Right now, we have [Dwyer’s] land, so his project will be kicking off soon.”
Local residents will have a chance to meet and get to know the Dwyers before the keys are handed over. HFOT will host three different events in the area over the coming months.
“The first is a community kickoff event, usually held at a venue where the community can come and find out more. This allows us to introduce Liam to the community as well. The second is a volunteer day where the community is invited to help with the landscaping of the home and making it presentable,” Verity said. “Third is the key ceremony, when the veteran is presented with the home. There are a few speakers, a flag-raising ceremony in front of the house with a ribbon cutting, and the public can tour the home.”
Future goals for the young couple include being in their forever home here, where they can be near family, and find a new normal not centered around visits to the hospital.
“To me, Liam has a heart of gold and is a loving, charming and caring husband. He is determined to overcome his adversity and make the best out of a challenging circumstance,” Meghan Dwyer said. “He is an ambassador to other wounded warriors, providing a strong sense of encouragement with a dose of reality of what to expect, using his own injuries as an inspiration and example. If I had to use one-word adjectives to describe him, I would say: adaptable, courageous, determined, dependable, generous, giving, sincere and the list could go on forever.”
After the plot was secured by HFOT, a future neighbor added a sign to the vacant lot stating, “Future Home of an American Hero” — proof that the community is looking forward to welcoming the Dwyers home.