The Transforming Power of Love in Specially Adapted Homes for Veterans

In February when thoughts turn to love, it’s the perfect time to honor Veterans whose love of home and country led to the extreme sacrifices they made while serving in the military. In 2006, Homes For Our Troops (HFOT) began building specially adapted, mortgage-free homes for post-9/11 severely injured Veterans to enable them to focus on family, recovery, and rebuilding their lives. Budget Blinds® became a corporate sponsor and the sole window coverings provider for HFOT in 2014 and continues to install custom faux wood blinds, as pictured below, in every home built.

BB-2-11-22-1.jpgThe wide-open spaces of wheelchair accessibility throughout the home is a favorite feature that restores independence and freedom (Read SGT Callahan’s story below)

This tangible “thank you for your service and sacrifice” is a labor of love, supported by the nationwide network of Budget Blinds franchise owners who service local homes and by our manufacturing partner, Springs Window Fashions, who donates the blinds. The combination of the highest-quality window blinds and professional installation ensures years of convenience and functionality for every family.

Homes designed for safety and accessibility

HFOT homes have over 40 special adaptations to help restore normalcy for Veterans suffering from multiple amputations, partial- or full-paralysis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, burns, and loss of sight and hearing. Some of the favorite customizations are wider halls and doorways, automatic door openers, hardwood floors, roll-under countertops, sinks and cooktops, pull-down shelving, and roll-in showers. Our faux wood blinds provide privacy and light control while enhancing the home’s appearance and energy efficiency by blocking excessive cold or heat.

BB-2-11-22-2.jpgWhite faux wood blinds are made of durable polymer materials with UVA inhibitors that prevent cracking, chipping, peeling, and yellowing

  • Blinds can be enhanced with layered window treatments like colorful valances, draperies, or curtains to add a personal touch.
  • Adjustable blinds conserve energy and lower utility bills all year long by blocking outdoor heat or cold from entering the house.
  • The faux wood finish is easy to clean which is important for growing families with small children.
  • For safety and comfort, blinds provide complete light and privacy control in every room, with special motorized blinds in the master bath for added convenience.

2022 began with three homes completed in the first five weeks, and it’s exciting for Budget Blinds to be a partner with HFOT in the life-changing milestone of a home that helps deserving Veterans to rebuild their lives and realize their dreams for the future and their families.

Meet Army Sergeant Justin Callahan

BB-2-11-22-3(1).jpgSGT Justin Callahan joined the Army at 18 and loved serving his country, the camaraderie, and doing something with his life that mattered. Four years in and on deployment to Afghanistan in 2004, he experienced an improvised explosive device (IED) blast that cost him his left leg and caused severe arthritis and Traumatic Brain Injury. The years following his injury included surgeries, physical therapy, completing a master’s degree in Social Work, getting married, and becoming a father. He knew his wife, Katie, in high school but they didn’t talk for over 10 years and then reconnected over Facebook. Justin says that at their first meeting they exchanged greetings, “Hey Handsome,” “Hey Beautiful,” and it was love at first sight … destiny. They now have three children and are excited at the prospect of a new home where they can expand their family and fully realize the American Dream.

They chose Florida as the location for their new home for the warm weather and available medical care. He is looking forward especially to the roll-in shower, the open floorplan with wider doorways to move around easily in his wheelchair, and the lower cabinets to do cooking. He says, “I will be more productive at home because I won’t be limited to one room. It will provide me more time and energy to focus on my family and give me peace of mind knowing that we have a home we can call ours, that fits us and was made especially for us.” Justin works as a Social Worker at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center and plans to use his degree to work with other Veterans transitioning into civilian life. He enjoys attending church, fishing, exercising, weightlifting, and swimming. He is grateful for the support HFOT and its supporters give to Veterans and shares, “HFOT truly leaves no man behind. This home will take a huge burden off my back and allow me to focus on my future goals, raise my family, and give back to others.”

BB-2-11-22-4.jpgJustin speaking at the Key Ceremony while Katie and Tom Landwermeyer, President/CEO of HFOT, Brigadier General (USA Retired), look on

Justin’s family home is the first HFOT home for David and Wendy Dunn, franchise owners of Budget Blinds of West Palm Beach & Jupiter. They didn’t hesitate when told a build was coming to their territory and gladly installed custom window blinds throughout the home, adding beauty, comfort and convenience.  Of the experience, Wendy says, “We were honored to participate in this project and thank all of our veteran heroes for their sacrifices every day. We wish SGT Callahan and his family a lifetime of happiness in their home.”

Hear Justin and Katie share their journey by clicking here and, if you’re on Facebook, click here for Justin’s speech on Key Ceremony Day. (He’s a funny, charming man.)

Meet Navy Petty Officer First Class Ryan Sykes

BB-2-11-22-5.jpgPO1 Ryan Sykes joined the Navy at 18, right out of high school, desiring to give back, have adventures, and see the world. He confesses that, “I got more than I bargained for.” While on a fifth deployment to Afghanistan in 2008, he spent five hours unconscious in a ditch in freezing cold after crashing his motorcycle into a water storage tank. He was found by a local security guard who alerted American troops. He suffered Traumatic Brain Injury, collapsed lung, pneumonia, facial fractures, soft tissue damage, and partial paralysis on his left side, impairing his ability to walk. He spends 90 percent of his day in his wheelchair, working continuously on strengthening to walk again as well as cycling training for the U.S. Paralympics. He rides an upright trike and has placed first for several years in the USA Cycling Para-Cycling National Championships. Ryan lives an active life, often accompanied by his service dog, Docker, enjoying gym workouts, camping, biking, kayaking, and swimming. “I’ve had him four or five years. He always greets me when I get home, he’s a good guy to have around,” Sykes said.

Ryan describes his current small apartment as not handicapped accessible and he’s set up a jungle-gym style set of poles throughout that he “holds onto for dear life” for getting around. The specially adapted, mortgage-free home from HFOT will be a new start, allowing him more ease for performing daily routines like cooking, showering, and freedom of movement in his wheelchair anywhere in the house. He’s excited about the opportunities it will provide for him to continue recovery, provide a better quality of life for his son, and enable him to give back to his community through the Rotary Club. He shares, “My future has totally changed from what I thought it was. Thank you for this chance to start a new chapter in my life. This is an opportunity that I never dreamed of and one I shall never take for granted.”

BB-2-11-22-6.jpgEvery HFOT home has a flagpole in the front yard and the Stars and Stripes is raised on Key Ceremony Day before receiving the keys to the house (pictured are Ryan Sykes, his parents, and Bill Ivey, Executive Director, HFOT, Retired Army)

This is the second HFOT home for Buckley and Laura Armacher, franchise owners of Budget Blinds of Grass Valley. They initially met Ryan at the Community Kickoff for another Veteran’s home in 2020 and were delighted to again provide measuring and installation of faux wood blinds for Ryan’s new forever home. When informed of the new build in their area, they responded: “Yes! We would love to participate. I believe we met Navy Petty Officer First Class Ryan Sykes at Army SSG Cody Rice's community kickoff and we are excited to be of assistance once again. Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of HFOT.”

Hear more of Ryan’s story by clicking here.

Meet Army Sergeant Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz

BB-2-11-22-7.jpgSGT Emmanuel “Manny” Melendez-Diaz always felt a calling to join the military, so he enlisted in the Army as an Infantryman in 2003. In 2004, on deployment in Iraq, his vehicle hit an IED. In the chaos that ensued, Manny took the brunt of the blast and was credited with saving others’ lives. His injuries were severe, including damage to his right leg, nerve damage in the left foot, pulmonary disease, and intestinal damage. Despite efforts to save his leg, in 2006 doctors amputated Manny’s right leg and he was medically discharged in 2007.

But despite the challenges, life was sweet. He met his wife, Natibel, through a dating app although they later discovered they had friends in common who never thought to get them together. They have hopes and aspirations for their future that have been on hold because of the daily restrictions Manny experiences in their current home, including the extensive distance to the hospital. The new HFOT home in Maryland will bring them closer to the hospital and give peace of mind to them both with safety and accessibility for Manny in every area of the house and yard where he looks forward to cooking in the kitchen and grilling in the backyard. The financial freedom of a mortgage-free home will help them realize their entrepreneurial dreams: he to open his own catering business and she to having her own makeup company. They used many terms to describe what HFOT means to them, including a blessing, hope, start a new beginning, better life quality, and happiness. Manny thanks donors and supporters of HFOT, “Thank you for helping me to be closer to the hospital, get my medical care easier, and regain mobility in my house. The impact of the change you’re making for us is great, it will actually change our lives, we can never thank you enough.”

BB-2-11-22-8.jpgTheir bright future also includes a family—he wants five kids, she wants two. Manny says, “We’re still working on that department.”

For Joe and Maripaul Parker, franchise owners of Budget Blinds of Hagerstown, this is their second HFOT home, having assisted with one in 2016 for SGT Kevin Jaye and family. They volunteered time and expertise to ensure that custom blinds were professionally installed in Manny’s home, including motorized blinds in the master bath. They shared, “Yes, we will happily participate! We’re honored to say, ‘thank you’ in this small way to those who have served our country.

Join Manny and Natibel as they share their story here

Show your home some love with custom window coverings

With Spring just around the corner, now is the perfect time to plan on new window treatments to update your home’s style. Our wide selection of blinds, shutters, shades, and drapery present unlimited design possibilities for every room. Lighten up with light-filtering shades, control privacy with shutters and blinds, and increase energy efficiency with programmable motorized window coverings. The sky’s the limit!

BB-2-11-22-9.jpgPatterned Roman shades can transform any space with understated elegance you’ll love

Call 866-525-8054 or go online to www.budgetblinds.com to schedule a free, in-home or virtual* consultation to find Design Consultant near you who can help you design custom window coverings for your every mood.

  • Visit We Proudly Support Our Troops to make a donation to HFOT.
  • If you’re a Veteran who needs help or you know one who does, check out Resources for Veterans.
  • Read the latest inspirational HFOT Foundations November 2021 newsletter hereOvercoming the Odds, introducing some home-based, Veteran-owned businesses.

*Virtual consultations may not be available at every location