ESCONDIDO — A national nonprofit called Homes for Our Troops recently began building homes for two wounded Marine veterans in Escondido. The houses will be at no cost to the veterans and will be customized and adapted to their injuries.
Marine Cpl. Kionte Storey lost his right leg on Sep. 7, 2010, while serving in Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.
Marine 1st Sgt. Ben Holmes lost his right leg on April 20, 2011, while serving with the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Afghanistan.
The homes being built for Storey and Holmes will feature more than 40 major special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower, and kitchen amenities that include pull-down shelving and lowered countertops.
Storey, who is originally from California, chose to build his home in Escondido to be closer to his prosthetist and the VA.
“Over time, I’ve been able to adapt to my injuries, but to move in and out of the shower has always been the biggest fear of mine. I have slipped from the shower before in the past, so having the ability to get in and out of the shower easily without worrying about that factor anymore and to be able to maneuver around my home … without obstacles getting in the way allows for a lot more mobility and just freedom to navigate within my own home,” Storey said.
Bill Ivey, executive director of Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) and a veteran himself, told The Coast News that this is an opportunity to really give back.
“I think what we tried to do is provide a vehicle for American people to repay a debt to men and women who have been so badly injured,” Ivey said. “Being able to build a specially adapted home that is only accessible to someone in a wheelchair, it’s a good way to repay the debt we owe these men and women for defending our freedom and independence in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Storey now enjoys testing his physical abilities by running, hiking, rowing and weight lifting. He has become an avid mountain climber and conquered Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the Seven Summits around the globe.
He has also completed the Marine Corps Marathon and several half-marathons for Team HFOT and competed in track and field events during the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics Nationals.
“One of the things that makes us different from a lot of organizations that build homes for veterans is that we stay in contact with our veterans,” Ivey said. “Once they’re in the home, our tagline is building homes, rebuilding lives. Although the specially adapted home is important, what we really consider important is how we can help these veterans get on with their lives.”
The Massachusetts-based Homes for Our Troops has built 315 homes in 42 states since 2004, all at no cost to the veterans and paid for with donations and help from sponsors and partners.
“It helps veterans who are coming back home, especially with those injuries … where you come back and you don’t know which direction your life is supposed to go anymore,” Storey said. “And so to have a home being built really takes away the financial burden and the stress so that you can focus more on what you want to do.”
Ivey said that the No. 1 thing people can do to help is to accept and embrace the veterans into these communities. He added that people can also donate and support their cause at Hfotusa.org.
Storey is currently studying to become a physical therapist at Cal State San Marcos.
Holmes is a substitute teacher and a doctoral candidate at the City University of Seattle.
The two homes are expected to be completed this summer.