Forever Homes Let Severely Injured Veterans Rebuild Their Lives In Safety And Comfort

Attending a Key Ceremony for the presentation of a Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) specially adapted, mortgage-free home is exciting, tender, and awesome. It’s a celebration of the culmination of about two year’s work, involving many people and much activity, including HFOT staff and its many donors, supporters, suppliers, and volunteers. Recently, the 285th home was awarded in Murfreesboro, TN, to Army Sergeant Bryan Camacho, whose story is below.

The Young Marines flank the group at the ribbon-cutting for SGT Camacho’s new home, including Richard Cody, HFOT Chairman of the Board, General (USA, Retired); Wynonna Judd, HFOT Board Ambassador and singer/songwriter; Bryan and Liam Cronin, Bryan’s friend and caretaker; and Tom Landwermeyer, HFOT President/CEO, Brigadier General (USA, Retired)

HFOT began building these life-changing homes in 2004 for severely injured, post-9/11 Veterans to help them rebuild their lives after suffering limb amputations, paralysis, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), traumatic brain injury, burns, and loss of vision or hearing as a result of military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such injuries can derail a Veteran’s lifelong plans and dreams, dropping them into a whole new world upon returning home to the challenges and restrictions of a conventional home.

HFOT homes are designed to change lives

HFOT’s tag line is “Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives,” and these homes become a pivotal point for Veterans to rebuild their lives. Empowered by the freedom and independence that a donated, specially adapted home brings, they can focus on recovery and family and once again become highly productive members of society.

The homes are four-bedroom, two-bath, energy-efficient homes, and anywhere in the house, you can do a 360o in a wheelchair! The over 40 special adaptations exceed ADA compliance standards and include wider halls and doorways, automatic door openers, roll-under sinks, stovetops, and counters, pull-down shelving, roll-in shower, generators, and safe rooms, all designed to help with independent living. Additional modifications such as lifts and voice-activated lights, ceiling fans, and interior doors are installed if needed. Veterans choose between three home styles, décor colors they prefer, and where they would like their home built.

Open floor plans provide complete accessibility for wheelchairs anywhere in the house, including the garage

Budget Blinds enhances every room and every view

In 2014, Budget Blinds®, in partnership with our manufacturing partner Springs Window Fashions®, became the official window coverings supplier for the HFOT homes, filling a need that had been overlooked. The necessary hands and feet on the ground are the nationwide Budget Blinds franchise owners who volunteer their time to measure and professionally install the blinds for the Veterans and their families.

At a previous build, HFOT Executive Director, Bill Ivey (Army, Retired), talked about the Budget Blinds partnership and its unique contribution to HFOT: “When we first started building these homes, we weren’t providing them with blinds. Most of the guys and girls we built for are combat arms types of folks and we don’t think about putting blinds on windows. We kind of like having the windows open, you have better observation and field of fire because you can see what’s going on around you out there. But most of us marry up (laughing) and the wives of our Veterans pointed out that it’s a great house and we’re very thankful, but it’s kind of like moving into quarters again on an Army or Marine base. You’re hanging sheets and poncho liners so you can have a little bit of privacy. So, they suggested we get some blinds up. Budget Blinds stepped up and did a super job!

 Light and privacy control is at the touch of a button with our motorized blinds in the master bath

Custom faux wood blinds from the Budget Blinds’ Signature Series® collection were chosen for the HFOT homes because of their versatility, durability, and beauty:

  • Resistance to moisture and other environmental factors like extreme heat or cold make faux wood blinds ideal for any area of the country or room in the house.
  • Window blinds improve a homes’ energy efficiency and provide UV protection for furnishings.
  • Classic, 2” white faux wood blinds are stylish alone, or they layer beautifully with valances, curtains, or drapes.
  • Our high-quality blinds resist fading, chipping or peeling, providing years of worry-free operation.
  • Blinds enhance comfort in every room with light and privacy control.
  • An added safety feature of remote-controlled motorized blinds in the master bath eliminates the danger of reaching across the tub to adjust the blinds.

Budget Blinds believes every home should be a place of safety and comfort and is delighted to facilitate that for these deserving Veterans by providing window coverings that help to make the homes beautiful, safe, and secure.

Meet Army Sergeant Bryan Camacho

Having enlisted in the Army in 2002, Sergeant Bryan Camacho was on deployment in Iraq in 2007 when the vehicle he was riding in struck an improvised explosive device (IED) while attempting to respond to an IED attack on a nearby patrol. He was thrown from the vehicle, breaking his back and paralyzing him from the waist down. He spent a rigorous year and a half in intensive therapy upon returning to the States and became completely independent in a manual wheelchair. He first learned about Homes for Our Troops from a 2009 home recipient, but felt others were more deserving of that kind of help, but also knew if he ever needed help, it would be HFOT.

Unfortunately, help became necessary. In 2014, Bryan’s adapted truck spun out on ice and rolled into a ditch, breaking his neck and paralyzing him from the neck down. At this point, his best friend of 20 years, Liam Cronin, became his caretaker and is with him today. Of the HFOT specially adapted home, Liam says, “There’s no bigger gift to receive. It’s a huge turning point for him to pull out of five tough years.”

Bryan chose Murfreesboro, TN, for his new home, having discovered it a couple of years ago visiting a friend. He was taken by the historic charm and friendly people. “The few times I’ve been here and interacted with people, people down here are significantly friendlier. The local community volunteering is mind-blowing. This home will make my daily living significantly easier and will mean the world to me.” He confesses it’s hard to express his gratitude to HFOT, its donors, and the people of Murfreesboro and says, “If I ever find a way to repay HFOT’s supporters, I will.”

Despite his two injuries, Bryan continues to pursue his hobbies and interests, including working with a roller derby team that raises money for local animal shelters and children’s programs. He enjoys movies, concerts, and attending church and looks forward to involvement and giving back in his new community.

The whole Budget Blinds of Murfreesboro team was out in force on Volunteer Day, and the owners, Andy and Madeline, attended the Key Ceremony with Springs Window Fashions Area Representative, Jeanice Spader

For franchise owners Andrew and Madeline Zotti of Budget Blinds of Murfreesboro, this is their first HFOT home and they embraced the experience! Not only did they measure and install the blinds for Bryan’s new home, but their whole team got their hands dirty on Volunteer Day helping to get the landscaping in. Additionally, Andrew and Madeline attended the Key Ceremony when the home was awarded.

The Key Ceremony, a day to remember

Key Ceremony attendees include community volunteers, mayors and politicians, police, firemen, Veteran’s groups, local groups and associations, other HFOT home recipients, HFOT donors and corporate sponsors, including Budget Blinds and Springs representatives, celebrities, HFOT staff, and the Veteran’s family and friends. It’s a party with just enough pomp and circumstance to make the day truly memorable.

Well-wishers line the street, including singer/songwriter, Wynonna Judd, an HFOT Board Ambassador for Tennessee and Kentucky, as SGT Camacho arrives at his new home

Everyone arrives a bit early, so the Veteran’s motorcade is welcomed by crowds of well-wishers, waving American flags and cheering. It’s like a big, noisy hug. Upon exiting his van, Bryan was greeted by singer/songwriter, Wynonna Judd, an HFOT Board Ambassador for Tennessee and Kentucky who welcomes many Veterans home, this being the ninth home in Tennessee.

The National Anthem kicks off the ceremony in the tent, followed by various speakers. For SGT Camacho, that included HFOT Chairman of the Board, Richard Cody, General, USA Retired, and Mell Barbosa, Community Outreach Coordinator. Additional speakers were corporate partners, Quilts of Valor ladies who presented a beautiful, handmade quilt to Bryan, Liam Cronin, Bryan’s friend and caretaker, and Bryan, himself, was the final speaker. Richard Cody opened with an update on the 285 home recipients, illustrating the positive impact of these homes on Veterans’ lives:

  • 70% of the Veterans and 90% of the caregivers/spouses have secured college degrees.
  • 68% of Veterans are employed.
  • 150 babies have been born to families.
  • 68% have started 501C charities to raise money for more homes, helping to pay it forward for other Vets.

Liam and Bryan traded quips (as only best friends can) about whether it was getting harder to lift Bryan because he was getting heavier or because Liam was getting older and weaker. They are both grateful for a home that will give them more freedom and independence and Liam praised the roll-in shower and custom lift connecting areas of the master suite that will give Bryan “a real proper shower any human should get.” Historically, the specially adapted master bath and roll-in shower are favorites with house recipients who no longer require help with personal care.

 Some of the day’s activities included raising the American flag in the front yard, the “quilt-y” hug and presentation, and many heartfelt speeches

The American flag was raised, the ribbon was cut, Bryan was presented with a ceremonial key, and everyone was admitted for a tour of the beautiful new home. Contrary to normal procedure, Bryan had not seen the home prior to the Key Ceremony and HFOT President Tom Landwermeyer commented that watching Bryan take it all in was the most amazing feeling he’s had since becoming President. Liam shared that it was the first time he has ever seen Bryan express hope and optimism.

Life-changing homes? You bet!

Refresh your home for the holidays

If you’re wanting to freshen up your home for the coming holidays, now is the perfect time to contact Budget Blinds to see the varied array of window coverings available, including blinds, shutters, shades, drapes, and more, that can transform your home. Call 866-879-9730 today to schedule a free, in-home consultation or go online to www.budgetblinds.com to find a Style Consultant near you. Whether you require energy-efficient windows, child-safe options, the latest in window covering smart home automation and Somfy® motorization, or earth-friendly products, Budget Blinds can help you design the perfect solutions.