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The Courier Post, NJ: Team Builds Future for Veteran PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristy Davis   
Friday, 18 July 2008 00:00
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Team builds future for veteran
By KRISTY DAVIES • Courier-Post Staff • July 18, 2008

FLORENCE — After being severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, a local veteran is receiving a special gift: a specially adapted home.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Andrew Robinson, 25, and his wife, Sara, 23, are receiving a new, handicapped-accessible home from Homes for Our Troops.

A Build Brigade began work Thursday and will continue through Saturday to construct the majority of the home's framework, siding, insulation and roofing.

"It's like a mini-makeover," said Kirt Rebello, vice president of Homes for Our Troops. "We have skilled carpenters and people of the building trades."

The workers started Thursday morning with just a bare foundation. By noon, a basic frame was standing. By midafternoon, the framework for the roof over the garage was erected.

Money is donated to Homes for Our Troops from across the nation."It's hard to find a house, let alone one that is adapted," Rebello said.

More than 100 volunteers are donating their time to the project. Of those volunteers, about 65 of them are from Healing Emergency Aid Response Team 9/11 (H.E.A.R.T. 9/11), an organization made up of survivors and family members of the victims from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Police officers, firefighters and first responders from New York City and surrounding areas picked up hammers and saws to build a home for the Robinsons.

"We're taking our experience and trying to help him," said Bill Keegan, founder and president of H.E.A.R.T. 9/11. "By helping others, we are healing ourselves."

Robinson joined in the event by meeting many of the volunteers and watching his new home being constructed.

"I'm totally amazed that there's an organization that wants to do this," Robinson said as he sat under a tent to keep cool. "And all these people volunteering to help.

"Robinson grew up in Wrightstown and his parents live in the Jacobstown section of New Hanover. He and his wife currently live in San Diego.

"It can't get any bigger than somebody giving you a house," said Sara Robinson, a native of Florence. "We have friends who are taking off of work to help.

"Homes for Our Troops has built 28 homes across the nation and has 25 more in progress. Rebello has met almost every one of the injured soldiers receiving homes."They're amazing individuals," he said. "They have given close to the ultimate sacrifice and are still upbeat and proud of serving and proud of their country."

Volunteers also made sure the workers had Gatorade, water, and cold, wet towels to cool them down in temperatures that rose above 90 degrees.

"This home is a reflection of a grateful community and nation," Rebello said. "There are people handing out water and cleaning up the site. Each volunteer is as important as the other."

One of those volunteers was Robinson's mother, Carole Robinson.

"This is fabulous," she said. "To see the house go up in a day -- well, there's no Ty Pennington. They don't know my kid and they're still doing it. It's amazing to me."

Leon and Beatrice Hamilton live across the street from the new house and are happy to hear the sounds of construction.

"It's a good sound," said Beatrice Hamilton, 76. "We don't mind. I'm happy and proud to see them doing this."

Robinson was injured on June 3, 2006. A counterintelligence specialist, he was on a mission to collect information on an insurgent improvised explosive device cell that was responsible for killing fellow Marines. Robinson's vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb planted by the same cell he was investigating.

"I had two compound fractures in my legs, collapsed lungs, broken ribs and a fractured vertebra," Robinson said. "I'm paralyzed from the chest down and have some paralysis in my arms."

But that hasn't stopped him.

"I'm an optimist to a fault," Robinson said. "I always see the brighter side."

His wife agrees.

"It's annoying," she said with a smile and a jab. "You want him to be angry or in a bad mood."

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house will have an elevator, which was donated. The 2,100-square-foot house will also include a basement, where Robinson can practice hand-cycling.

"He's started wheelchair racing," Carole Robinson said. "He's going out and his voice is being heard. He's doing things that if he had walked home, he wouldn't be pursuing."

By Saturday, the home will be a weathertight shell and will look like a completed house, Rebello said. After that, plumbers, electricians, heating and ventilation technicians and other interior construction professionals will continue the work. The home is scheduled to be completed in about three months.

"In California, the weather is nice, but the traffic is horrible," Sara Robinson said. "We're definitely excited to be moving back home."

Reach Kristy Davies at (856) 486-2917 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 November 2008 03:51 )