Capping a four-year process, Marine Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer and his wife Meghan received the key to their new custom-built, handicap-accessible house through the national nonprofit Homes For Our Troops (HFOT) on Saturday, Aug. 8.
The normally wide-scale community celebration was toned down greatly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that did nothing to stem the excitement and support by the surrounding neighborhood.
HFOT President & CEO Tom Landwermeyer was on site to present the key to the Dwyers.
“The most important part of what we do is enabling veterans to rebuild their lives,” he said. “We do not see our mission as charity. We see it as a moral obligation of our country to repay a very small portion of a huge debt that can never be completely repaid for these veterans and their families.”
Dwyer was severely injured while serving in Afghanistan after stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) during patrol in May 2011.
Dwyer lost his left leg, suffered severe injuries to his right arm and right leg, and has undergone more than 50 surgeries during his time in recovery.
The process of getting this fresh start here in the western communities was neither short nor simple.
“Four years ago, we got accepted to get a house. Finally, after this year’s trials and tribulations, six surgeries for us this year, obviously COVID-19 and some other challenges in our life, we were looking at this house as the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dwyer said. “In February, when we found out the project had started, that light shone — and as time went on, that light got bigger. Finally, we had a rock-solid date for this key ceremony. Now, all of a sudden, that bright light is us coming out of the tunnel, and we see everything for the first time.”
HFOT is rapidly approaching its 300th completed home spread across 42 different states. The organization has land in three other states for future homes, which will bring the total to 45 states.
“We have 73 projects going on right now around the country, and another 100 veterans in the application process,” Landwermeyer said. “There’s another thousand or so who have the injuries that would qualify for our program. We put about 25 homes on the ground every year.”
Landwermeyer has three important messages for the community.
“First, wrap your arms around this family. They chose to live here,” he said. “Second, we keep our overhead low, so help us with awareness. Tell some people about our organization, who we are, what we do and what we support. And last, if you have the ability to donate or fundraise, just call us up or go on our web site.”
The neighbors around the Dwyers were ready with open arms — at a social distance. Local residents Andrea Fulcher and Kelly Breffle put the word out to welcome the couple with a neighborhood golf cart parade. Scores of neighbors came out on carts, cars and even a bicycle to cheer and wave at the new residents.
“I didn’t know we would have so many people,” Fulcher said. “I am so happy, and everyone is excited to have the Dwyers here.”
The adapted house includes features such as lower windows with sliding side-to-side opening, drop-down cabinets, wider doorways and even a safe room with a backup generator. The design, build and landscaping process was contracted to Complete Construction & Management (CCM), which did such a great job that HFOT has signed them up for three more house projects.
“After an injury, the basic independence of tying your shoe, brushing your own teeth, feeding yourself and doing your own laundry or taking care of your kids — that becomes a real challenge,” Dwyer said. “Thanks to HFOT, we get that freedom and independence back.”
Dwyer also wanted to thank the contractors in a special way.
“In tradition with the military, when they are leaving a command and you’ve been doing good, they offer you a coin. So, from me, to you guys,” said Dwyer, as he presented coins to Jay Kelleher and Eric Guionnaud of CCM.
For more information about Homes For Our Troops, visit www.hfotusa.org.