CASCADE - A crew of volunteers using donated supplies began work last week on a new home for a Montana National Guard soldier who was paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Iraq last year.
The home for former Staff Sgt. John Bennett is one of about a dozen being built by a Massachusetts-based group called Homes for Our Troop.
“This community has been really wonderful to us, and we appreciate it," Bennett told a small gathering last Monday as work began.
The home will be about 2,700 square feet, financed by donations and volunteer labor.
“Everything will be on one level," said retired contractor Terry Curnow, one of those who is helping build the home. “It will have countertops at his height, closets he can get into and a stove with knobs that he can reach without burning his hand."
Organizers hope to have the new house ready for Bennett, his wife, Dena, and their five children to move into by Thanksgiving.
Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit based in Taunton, Mass., has already built six homes for wounded vets since it was established in December 2004 and is currently working on about a dozen more.
“Dena wrote us a letter outlining their needs," said Kirt Rebello, projects director for Homes for Our Troops. “And as soon as we opened it, we knew we had to step in and help."
Home for Our Troops is prepared to contribute up to $150,000 to the home, but any materials, services or money donated will allow the group to help more vets injured while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
John Gonsalves said he founded Homes for Our Troops after he tried to donate to such an organization, but found none existed.
“I never served," said Gonsalves. “So this is my way to serve people like John and Dena Bennett."
The gesture brought an enthusiastic thank you from Montana Adjutant General Randy Mosley, commander of Bennett's former unit, the 163rd Infantry Battalion.
“The thought of an organization that would step forward and do something so tangible for a wounded soldier just floored me," said Montana Adjutant General Randy Mosley. “This is the greatest, greatest cause that I could ever imagine."
Dena Bennett said she is grateful for the new home because it will allow her husband to regain a little of his lost independence.
“This home means he can be normal," she said. “At least as normal as he can be."