“It’s life-changing, and I’m eternally grateful.” Army Staff Sergeant Veronica Hally was overwhelmed to see her new dream home in Glenside, Pennsylvania, a gift last month from Building Homes for Heroes.
“We are gifting 11 homes in 11 weeks, between Sept. 11 and Nov. 11.” David Weingrad, senior communications manager of Building Homes for Heroes, told The Epoch Times that Hally’s home is one of those 11 gifted homes to wounded veterans, in honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and Veterans Day this year.
Hally was medically retired from the military in 2019 after serving 23 years. She served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was left with severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. She also suffers from tinnitus, carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands, and chronic lumbar strain.
Hally received numerous accolades, including the Army Commendation Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and was named Special Agent of the Year.
“It’s gorgeous! Like a dream!” Hally said at a ceremony held by Building Homes for Heroes on Sept. 29 in front of her new home. “And so it still feels so surreal. And the gratitude I feel in my heart is nothing that could ever be explained, and [I’m] eternally grateful.” Hally is rated 100 percent injured by the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is a single mom with three children.
Hally told The Epoch Times last Friday that she is proud of what she has done to serve the country: “You can look up a bunch of wars … but I think our service to our nation, this flag, should be something that should be taken into consideration and should be respected and not ever desecrated.”
Building Homes for Heroes has modified and gifted 280 mortgage-free homes to severely wounded veterans in 37 states since 2006.
“Because our servicemen and women serve and sacrifice for all of us. They left their families; they put their lives and their bodies on the line. And they came back injured. So it’s a debt that we owe them.”
Weingrad said, “It’s the least we can do to provide them with a home and a foundation where they could live happily and peacefully for the rest of their life. It’s our honor to serve them.”
Building Homes for Heroes offers three types of homes: homes built from scratch, OREA (Other Real Estate Owned) homes donated by JPMorgan Chase Bank, and modifying veterans’ homes to make them more handicap accessible and beautiful.
Weingrad said that the most important and unique feature of homes from Building Homes for Heroes is they are “handicap accessible.”
“Because lots of these veterans are in wheelchairs, a lot of them are missing a leg or an arm. Some of them are blind. So we do very unique features to all of these homes that you would never see in any other home,” Weingrad continued.
Building Homes for Heroes provides all recipients’ homes with ramps, because even if they don’t need a wheelchair now, they may need one later in life. There are always hardwood floors, widened doorways, oversized bathrooms, and lower, specialized cabinets for a wheelchair. For blind veterans, the lights are censored and automatically turn on when they enter the house.
Weingrad appreciates all the donors who support this mission: “We get a wide range of support from … regular people, from state governments, foundations, and major corporations.” The State of Florida provides a budget to Building Homes for Heroes annually, so they have done more than 100 homes alone in Florida. In addition, JPMorgan Chase donates mortgage-free homes, and Advance Auto Parts, Lowe’s, SAIC based in Virginia, and Truck Hero based in Michigan have been sponsoring Building Homes for Heroes. York installs air conditioners and heating systems for free.
Weingrad said lots of veterans know about Building Homes for Heroes and apply for homes on the website. Military hospitals and the military also reach out directly to them, because many high-ranking officials in the military know about Building Homes for Heroes.
Building Homes for Heroes plans to reach its 300th home gift sometime next year.
May Lin contributed to this report.