When an injured soldier comes home, he needs a home fit for his needs.
That's where Homes for Our Troops has begun playing a major role for many men and women who have served in the military, including Marcellus resident Army Sgt. Jeffrey Guerin whose life changed forever on Oct. 14, 2004 while he was serving in Afghanistan.
Guerin was severely injured that day when his vehicle was ambushed and destroyed by an IED while conducting security patrol. Two days shy of turning 22, the sergeant was left with broken bones and blinded in both eyes by shrapnel.
Now, almost four years later, Guerin will be able to make a fresh start with his fianc (c)e, Jennifer Toteda, in a specially adapted home to suit his needs with the help of Homes for Our Troops. The couple plans to hold their wedding reception at the new home, Toteda said.
Founded in 2004 by John Gonsalves, Homes for Our Troops is a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization that has approximately 30 homes under construction and another 70 or so in the planning stages, Gonsalves said. After searching for an organization such as this to volunteer with and finding none, Gonsalves opted to start his own organization, he said.
"I just assumed Homes for Our Troops was out there," he said. "Nothing like this had ever been started. I was shocked."
Together, Gonsalves, Guerin and several others broke ground Wednesday before a crowd of more that 100 onlookers. The ceremony marked the beginning of construction on Guerin's new home on Abounding Way, which will be provided free of charge.
"I never thought there would be an organization out there, when I first got injured, that would do something like this," Guerin said as he stood to address the crowd. Due to his injuries, he cannot walk much and uses a motorized wheelchair.