Iraq veteran Joshua Hoffman ready for move to home built by volunteers aided by Homes For Our Troops
Posted by destep January 30, 2009 05:45AM
MIDDLEVILLE -- Heather Lovell suspected it all along, but now she is certain: People do care.
"It's unbelievable. There's no way to express it in words," said Lovell, 22.
She and her fiance, former Marine Cpl. Joshua Hoffman, will move Saturday into a donated house near Middleville, built with the labor and love of hundreds of West Michigan volunteers.
Given his sacrifice, they figure it is the least they can do.
"I don't think we could ever do enough for Josh," said Caledonia resident Bill White, 62, at the house Wednesday to put finishing touches on the project.
"His sacrifice will never end."
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Hoffman, 26, was paralyzed from the chest down when he was hit by a sniper's bullet in Iraq in January 2007. A bullet pierced his neck and exited his shoulder blade, shattering his upper spine as it went through. He spent more than a year in a Virginia Veterans Administration hospital before coming home in March 2008.
The one-story house includes everything from an elevator to a wheelchair-accessible shower, all to accommodate Hoffman's extensive medical needs.
It has polished wood floors to ease wheelchair movement and lights that turn on and off automatically when he enters or leaves a room. A motorized ceiling track lift system will aid him getting in and out of bed and into the shower.
An oxygen distribution system in the basement can pipe oxygen into several rooms, vital for treating his frequent lung infections. A backup generator assures the home will have electricity, even if the power grid fails.
The house was built with primary financial help from Homes For Our Troops, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization dedicated to building houses for wounded and disabled veterans. It has built more than three dozen homes around the country.
"Men and women like Josh are modern-day heroes," said Brian Reed, project manager of Homes for Our Troops.
"Josh is definitely one of the most severe we have had to deal with. But he is a great kid. He has a great disposition. In my heart, I have a lot of hope for Josh and his fiancee."
Caledonia building contractor Bill Bravata, 56, acted as general contractor for the 2,200-square-foot house. And like everyone involved, he donated his time.
He lost track of how many hours.
"It's just a labor of love and respect and giving back," Bravata said.
"When God, the spirit, the power of the universe wants something, it's going to get done if you just don't get in the way. There has just been a tremendous outpouring of support."
Caledonia resident Chet Teater, a 62-year-old Vietnam War veteran, estimated more than 700 people pitched in one way or another.
He is proud to be one.
"Josh has paid a heavy price to serve our country. He has an attitude, a zest for life that is hard to match, given his condition."
Teater and others helped raise $80,000 for the project, with money coming from individuals, several area schools and $20,000 from the Marshall Community Foundation. The suburban Detroit family of Sgt. Peter Neesley, who died in Iraq in 2007, donated $626, the total of their son's last tax return.
The funds are to pay for finishing the basement and the cost of the oxygen distribution system, with a portion reserved for paying utilities and insurance on the home.
Lovell estimated Hoffman has been hospitalized 10 times since he came home to West Michigan, most often because of infection related to his paralysis. It is the No. 1 cause of death for patients paralyzed from the waist down.
But Hoffman has managed to avoid the hospital for several months and Lovell is optimistic he will thrive in their new home.
Compared to their Kentwood apartment, it is a dream.
"Josh, he is ecstatic. It's going to be such a relief to get out of our apartment with room to breathe, so he can feel more independent," Lovell said.
"That's very important to him."
E-mail Ted Roelofs: firstname.lastname@example.org