by Lt. Col. James Bishop
439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
5/11/2012 - WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. -- When amputee and Marine Sgt. Joshua Bouchard moved in with his father in Granby, Mass., after three years of intensive physical therapy, his wheelchair wouldn't fit through the bedroom door.
"Dad had to cut out a section of the door jamb so it would fit," said Sgt. Bouchard, who lost a leg from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Work began April 27 on a fully-accessible home. More than 200 volunteers showed up on day one to begin the three-day "Work Brigade."
At 8 a.m., there was a concrete slab on the empty lot on Chicopee Road. By day's end, the house was framed. Two days later, workers completed the roof and siding.
"We expect 600-700 skilled volunteers to work on the house in the next three days," Andrew Crane said on the first day of construction. Crane is president of A. Crane Construction company, who helped organize the project.
At his father's house, Sgt. Bouchard said he routinely burned his arms reaching to get a dish out of the conventional oven and struggled with "a hundred things you wouldn't think of" trying to maneuver a wheelchair around a conventional house.
Sgt. Bouchard was injured on his second deployment, when his vehicle ran over a pressure-plate IED while on a night mission in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2009.
Ejected from the vehicle, Sgt. Bouchard's left leg was severed by the gun turret, causing a traumatic amputation. When he hit the ground, his back was broken by the impact and he suffered a traumatic brain injury. One of his injured teammates applied a tourniquet, while a British Royal Marine performed a direct-person transfusion to prevent Josh from dying on the battlefield, according to the Homes for Our Troops website.
Four other Marines were injured in the blast; two teammates died from their injuries.
Sgt. Bouchard spent the next three years in Army hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
Jennifer Fiorentino, public relations manager for Homes for Our Troops, the non-profit group sponsoring the Build Brigade, said modifications to Sgt. Bouchard's new house will include
-Barrier-free sinks so a wheelchair can fit underneath
-Wider hallways and room entries
-Stove and oven situated lower to the ground.
The only money invested in the project was the land, said Fioentino. "Everything else was donated." Since its beginning in 2004, Homes for Our Troops has built more than 100 homes for military members who have been severely wounded since Sept. 11, 2001.
During the opening ceremony, Homes for Our Troops Executive director Dawn Teixeira gestured to the crowd of more than 200 and said, "Josh, look around you. This is your support network."
When Sgt. Bouchard wheeled to the microphone during the opening ceremony, he looked at the crowd, his face drawn with emotion, and shook his head. "I can't speak...thank you all," he said.