Wounded veteran takes keys to Penn Valley house from Homes for Our Troops (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY) | TheUnion.com
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Wounded veteran takes keys to Penn Valley house from Homes for Our Troops (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)

Army Staff Sgt. Cody Rice, who was injured in Afghanistan, receives his new home in Penn Valley Saturday, built for him by Homes For Our Troops. The organization builds and donates specially adapted custom homes nationwide to severely injured post-9/11 Veterans.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

After two tours in Afghanistan, the second nearly taking his life, Cody Rice entered a new chapter of life Saturday upon entering his new home in Penn Valley.

The welcome ceremony was hosted by Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit organization that buys land and constructs homes that dignify wounded veterans by improving accessibility.

The native Ohioan and his wife Shanna were chosen to receive a new home with over 40 adaptations that improve accessibility from the nonprofit in November 2018. Six years before, Rice stepped on an explosive device in Afghanistan that resulted in the amputation of his right foot.

Rice, like many other veterans wounded in the line of duty, returned to his homeland literally unsteady.

President and CEO of Homes for Our Troops Tom Landwermeyer said the new home’s focus on accessibility offer veterans supports they need to feel independent and offer some relief to their caretaker and/or spouse.

“Their partner might have to do the day-to-day thing that everyone else takes for granted,” Landwermeyer said, explaining that offering agency dignifies the lives of those reckoning with bodily trauma.

Landwermeyer said generally speaking, the veterans he works with most look forward to using their huge master shower.

“They can roll in in their wheelchair,” Landwermeyer said, adding that two digital devices in and out of the shower help regulate the water temperature. “A lot of them have nerve damage on the limbs, so they cannot feel the temperature of the water and scald themselves.”

Landwermeyer said showers may be especially precarious to amputees who hop to get around without their prosthetic, like Rice.

Rice showered in his new home Sunday and said, for the first time in years, it was a relaxing experience.

“As far as the house — I think the best part is the shower. I took a shower yesterday for the first time I’ve ever had a shower I could sit in and not worry about balancing or falling,” Rice said. “I’ve been so worried about hurting my knee and I just thought to myself as I showered, ‘Wow, this is why I need this house.’”

A PLACE TO REBUILD

Landwermeyer said other adaptations include lower light switches, higher outlets, a front loading washer and dryer as well as a stovetop with a ledge so residents can cook easily from a seated position.

Landwermeyer said many hallways in the average home require those in a wheelchair to back up in order to get out. Veterans may not be able to help their caretaker do household tasks like washing dishes, because they may not be able to reach the sink with seated knees in the way.

Once the weight of the minutia has been lifted, Landwermeyer explained, veterans have more capacity to focus on their families, friends and career.

“Two-hundred and seven babies have been born since we provided homes to our new veterans,” Landwermeyer said.

Last weekend, when Landwermeyer asked the 4-year-old daughter of his 300th home what she was looking forward to the most, she replied “I’m looking forward to my daddy being able to come in and tuck me in at night.”

Now that Rice is settled, he is looking forward to starting a family.

“Cody wanted to be a ready and able daddy,” Landwermeyer said. “Now, he can do a 360 in his wheelchair any time in his home.”

Teresa Verity, Marketing Associate for Homes for Our Troops, said her nationwide nonprofit organization builds and donates specially-designed homes for veterans who sustained an injury after the 9/11 attacks.

“A lot of people don’t know how painful prosthetics are by the end of the day,” Verity explained, adding that the average American home may have a disenfranchising effect on veterans facing mobility issues after their service. “Our homes have more than 40 adaptations so they’re wheelchair accessible.”

Verity said Homes for Our Troops has built just over 300 homes for veterans since its creation in 2004.

“The main point of our homes is to provide vets a place where they continue rebuilding their lives,” Verity said.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer for The Union. Contact her at roneil@theunion.com or 530-477-4232.


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