“Nothing about my home fits my needs.” –SGT Wayne Swier, retired (his story below)
Those seven words sum up the moving force behind Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), a non-profit organization that has been building mortgage-free, specially adapted homes for severely injured post 9/11 Veterans since 2004. They have built over 237 homes across the country, helping injured Veterans and their families to get a new lease on life.
SGT Swier’s comment is descriptive of the traditional homes that Veterans return to after retirement from military service due to catastrophic injuries including multiple amputations, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, full or partial paralysis and hearing and vision loss. Their homes are no longer welcoming, but restrictive and even dangerous for someone in a wheelchair or on prosthetic legs. Falls are common, adding to the stress of the whole family and renewed pain and injury for the Veteran.
That’s why HFOT builds and awards these specially adapted homes as a departure point for Veterans to rebuild their lives, restoring some of the freedom and independence they sacrificed while serving our country. Empowered by the freedom a mortgage-free, specially adapted home brings, Veterans can focus on recovery, including new careers, completing college degrees, building independent small businesses and starting families.
Turning houses into homes
Home should be a place of safety and comfort, and Budget Blinds® is delighted to facilitate that by providing window coverings to make each Veteran’s home beautiful, safe and secure. Budget Blinds became a corporate sponsor of HFOT in 2014, committing to install faux wood blinds from our Signature Series® collection in all the homes built over a three- period. Blinds are donated by our manufacturing partner, Springs Window Fashions®, and local independent Budget Blinds franchise owners do measuring and installs for the homes in their areas, including a special remote-control motorized blind in the master bath to eliminate the danger of reaching across the tub.
Although blinds are available in a wide range of colors and finishes, 2” white faux wood blinds were chosen for the HFOT homes for a variety of reasons.
- Their versatility and resistance to moisture and other environmental factors like extreme heat or cold make them appropriate for any part of the country.
- These blinds resist fading, chipping or peeling and they remain beautiful and worry-free for years, providing complete light and privacy control.
- As a stand-alone window treatment, the classic lines of custom blinds are compatible with any décor, and make a unique fashion statement paired with valances, curtains or drapes.
Shirin Behzadi, CEO of Budget Blinds and parent company, Home Franchise Concepts, shares: “Homes for Our Troops perfectly aligns with Budget Blinds’ commitment to honor U.S. military veterans. We are very proud to make this contribution to returning soldiers and their families.”
Meet Army Sergeant Wayne Swier
As a little kid, SGT Swier remembers watching Tour of Duty with his dad and deciding by the ripe old age of eight that he wanted to serve in the military. He joined the Army, absolutely loving the job he had and the guys he worked with. On a foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2010, he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) and the blast resulted in hearing loss, amputation of his left leg, and limited use of his left arm. After two years of surgeries and physical therapy at Walter Reed, he returned home to Rapid City and the home that no longer was a comfort to him.
“There’s lots of steps and ice in South Dakota, with steps at every entry. I haven’t used my wheelchair in three years; it doesn’t fit down any of the hallways. I’ve fallen multiple times on the stairs and it kinda hurts. With my new home I am looking forward to all-around freedom to live in a home where I can actually use my wheelchair and have a shower I can transition into.”
He recently married his sweetheart, Bridget, and is studying business and marketing with plans to become a special education teacher. He plays guitar and rides with his motorcycle group, Combat Vets Motorcycle Association. He says of the mortgage-free HFOT house, “It will allow me to start my motorcycle business , Leg Up Customs, the first American motorcycle shop building true custom motorcycles to fit the needs of the disabled rider. There’s nothing out there to accommodate disabled riders, until now. In five years I see myself standing with my partner, Matt, big smiles on our faces running our motorcycle shop and giving back to disabled riders the option to get out there and enjoy two wheels.”
He is grateful for HFOT and its network of donors and volunteers, calling them a Godsend. “As a Veteran and Servicemember, I personally would like to show my gratitude and thank you from the depths of my heart for doing what you do.”
The team of Budget Blinds serving Rapid City, SD, was delighted to participate in this home build, including franchise owners Jim and Laura Ellenbecker and Wendi Albers, sales, whose husband is active military. They measured and expertly installed the blinds throughout the home and Wendi attended the Key Ceremony on August 19 when the home was awarded to SGT Swier.
You can see SGT Swier share his story on YouTube by clicking here.
Meet Army Sergeant James “JP” McGuire, Jr.
SGT McGuire enlisted in the Army, following the tradition set by his father, uncles and cousins. In Iraq in 2007, he stepped on an IED during a foot patrol. A buddy attempted to rescue him from the blast, but was killed when he stepped on a second IED. SGT McGuire lost his right leg above the knee and suffers from severe PTSD and memory loss. After 30 surgeries, he remains focused on rebuilding his life with his wife, Brittney. They have two children, Aubrie who is four and “is JP in a female body,” and baby James the 3rd.
He is currently working as a product specialist for the Defense Supply Center, a government career he would like to expand. He is a life member of the VFW and speaks in high schools, sharing his experiences with young people as well as coaching wrestling at a local high school.
The specially adapted HFOT home will make life easier for his wife and him. Falling is a real concern and Brittney doesn’t like to leave him alone at home. He shares, “My wife and family and friends have to help me and I don’t like that, I’m an independent person. This home will make our lives easier; they won’t have to worry about me all the time.” He looks forward to all the space he can get around in, especially that he’ll be able to be with his children all the time in any area of the new home.
Of HFOT he says, “Everybody has to have a hero and the HFOT organization, donors, supporters, and volunteers are the real heroes. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you do, not just for me but also for all of my comrades.”
Kevin Roach, franchise owner of Budget Blinds serving King George, is himself a disabled Veteran and was delighted to participate. ”Being an Army Retiree myself, it was really an honor being able to donate our time and labor to such a worthy cause. Hopefully we can do more in the future.” Kevin measured and installed the blinds for SGT McGuire and participated in the celebration on Key Ceremony day when the McGuire family moved in.
Hear SGT McGuire and Brittney share their story by clicking here.
If your home could use a little TLC, new window coverings could do the trick. Budget Blinds can help you update your windows with stylish blinds, classic shutters, new Inspired ShadesTM in organic materials, custom drapery and more. Call 866-879-9730 to schedule a free, in-home consultation or go online at www.budgetblinds.com to find a Style Consultant near you. With Budget Blinds, you’ll find style and service for every budget.
To learn more about the Budget Blinds Homes for Our Troops partnership or to make a donation, visit We Proudly Support Our Troops.