Homes for Our Troops restores independence via homes for injured veterans
On Feb. 23 approximately 100 people gathered at the lots designated for the future homes for two distinguished military men, Army Sgt. Odin Ayala and Marine Cpl. Travis Greene. Homes for Our Troops is a national non-profit organization that restores freedom and independence to severely injured veterans through the gift of a specially adapted home. To date they have built 120 homes in 33 states. Their goal is to raise $40 million to build 100 more homes.
Ayala was the third deployed when he lost both of his legs in an IED blast in Kandahar, Afghanistan. on Sept. 14, 2011. “Receiving an accessible home from Homes for Our Troops will help me focus on my recovery and my future. Thank you for making my life, and the lives of so many of our injured warriors, easier,” said Ayala.
It was the 64th anniversary of the attack of Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 2005, when Greene lost both his legs in an IED blast in Ramadi, Iraq. Greene was reunited with Marine Cpl. Neil Frustaglio, who lost both legs in the same incident. Frustaglio is also a Homes for Our Troops recipient now living in Texas with his wife and two sons. Frustaglio does public speaking for Homes for Our Troops to educate the public, give thanks and for fundraising.
There was another veteran attending who was a speaker there to support his friends and the organization. His name is Jake Keeflar and Homes for Our Troops built him a home in Fallbrook in 2011.
The Patriot Guard riders lined up on both sides of the entrance to the tent area. All the men had flags and they were raised when Army Sergeant Odin Ayala and Marine Corporal Travis Green wheeled themselves through the Patriot Guard.
The Patriot Guard is a motorcycle club whose members attend the funerals of U.S. armed forces members, firefighters and police at the invitation of the deceased’s family. Patriot Guard riders’ representatives explained that they are not a chartered motorcycle club but a group of individuals with an “unwavering respect for those who risk their lives for America’s freedom and security.”
Autumn Oster, the community outreach coordinator, was the master of ceremonies. The ceremony began with the posting of colors by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in El Cajon, followed by the singing of the national anthem by Ken Sellers of Riverside.
Some highlights of the day’s event was the presentation of a check for $17,000 by Andrew Ryan from Broadview Mortgage. In addition, a representative from Sen. Joel Anderson’s office presented the men with certificates and welcomed them to El Cajon. She said, with true emotion in her voice, that Sen. Anderson and his team were going to help them in every way that they can. County Supervisor Diane Jacobs gave each man a special welcome to East County while adding, “San Diego has the largest number of retired and active military in the world.”
Tim McHail, president of Homes for Our Troops, traveled from Massachusetts to attend. “There have been 50,000 severely wounded since 9-11. The homes that are being built are not a charity. They are a safe and loving home. Each individual home costs $400,000. I want to thank our sponsors such as Kohler, Volvo Rental, Majestic Flooring, and all of the builders and tradesmen. They are our contributors from large corporations, individuals and little donors with big hearts,” McHail said gratefully.
“I was born in Boise, Idaho. Three months into my third deployment, I stepped on a bomb. I knew my legs were gone. I later fell in love with Southern California, and have a wife and child. Thank you for being here and helping me,” said Greene.
Ayala said, “I was eight years in the army. I also fell in love with Southern California while I was recuperating at Balboa Naval Hospital. It is hard for me to put it into words. Thank you very much.”
After the formal ceremony there was a ground breaking on the Greene property. After the ground breaking ceremony everybody walked across the street to the Ayala property.
Many veterans were present, including those serving in Vietnam, World War II and other wars. The County Sheriff’s Department also attended, as did the El Cajon Marine Corps, adorned with red shirts. Also in attendance was Capt. M. Lee Wayne who was a POW and come home safely.
Interested parties can make contributions to Home for Our Troops by sponsoring events such as fundraisers, car washes, dinners, auctions and rummage sales. Monies raised will go toward the building of homes for severely injured veterans and their families. The organization’s goal is to be able to help these soldiers live independent lives and be productive members of their community.