Homes for Our Troops

RibbonCutting Walker, Lilly, McHale By Cathy Dronen

“Home sweet home” takes on a new meaning for Marine Sgt. Bradley Walker who Saturday opened the door to his brand new home in Dandridge.

Walker was seriously injured during a 2006 tour of duty in Iraq. On December 20, he became one of 167 soldiers to receive a house from the non-profit Homes for Our Troops national organization.

Homes for Our Troops have been building specially adapted, mortgage-free homes for severely injured soldiers since 2007. The organization partners with corporate sponsors to secure donations, building materials, equipment and recruit professional labor. HFOT is committed to constructing homes for the estimated 1,700 service members nationwide, who like Walker, return from Afghanistan and Iraq with life-altering injuries.

More than 100 guests attended the Key Ceremony at the house, located in the Holly Springs Subdivision in Dandridge. Major General Timothy McHale, president of HFOT, thanked the crowd in attendance and the many sponsors who hold to the goal of honoring the sacrifices of service members severely injured while defending the country.

“We do not see this as a charity,” said McHale. “We see this as a moral obligation to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They defended our freedom, the very least we can do is give them a form of freedom in return.”

Sgt. Walker served as a member of the 4th Combat Engineer Division. On November 27, 2006 he was the driver of a security vehicle returning from a mission in the Haditha Triad when his vehicle triggered an IED blast along the Euphrates River. He was knocked unconscious and suffered the traumatic amputation of both legs. Walker received life-saving aid from his squad and was medically evacuated by helicopter.

Walker was on his second deployment to Iraq when he was injured. He was transferred to the United States and hospitalized in Bethesda, Maryland. He spent more than two years in rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he received prosthetic legs.

The HFOT home represents an opportunity for accessibility and independence. Walker’s new three bedroom, two bath features some 155 special adaptive features like widened doors and hallways, roll under sinks and stovetops, roll in showers and pull down cabinets.

Sgt. Walker was presented with an American Flag and solemnly raised it on the lawn before he cut the ceremonial ribbon. He handed the key to his fiancée Anna Lilly, who unlocked the door. Walker was nearly speechless with emotion as he toured the house, “It is going to take a while to soak it all in. I feel like I am dreaming, like I haven’t gotten out of bed.”

The HFOT house is the start of a new life for Walker. “Words can’t express everything I am feeling right now,” he said.

Walker is one of 10 Veterans who will experience a happier holiday this season thanks to the commitment of Homes for Our Troops and the generosity of HFOT sponsors and volunteers.

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