When one considers the things that could be accomplished in 10 days, building a house probably is not near the top of the list.
But, with enough planning, organization and volunteers, two organizations have teamed to make a 10-day house a reality for a retired Marine who wants to make New Braunfels his home.
These quick builds are nothing new to A Soldier’s Journey Home, a nonprofit organization whose members build mortgage-free, handicap-accessible homes for veterans severely injured in the line of duty. Paddy Neville, the organization’s president, said this is the group’s fifth build.
This is also the fifth build for the Nine Line Foundation, a nonprofit organization named for a phrase used to request an emergency medevac in combat, president Megan Hostler said.
But it is the first project being worked on together.
“I had met Paddy, and we’d had a tentative agreement that we would work together, but I had to have credibility with his people,” Hostler said. “So I flew out to Illinois for their build, and to just see that — he says it’s organized chaos, but it wasn’t chaos. It was organization down to the minutest detail, and it was dedication.”
“We’ll have a group that travels in” from 14 states, said Neville, who lives in New York, “and then we have volunteers from the community (we build in).”
The core group of A Soldier’s Journey Home volunteers is comprised of current and retired first responders who give up their vacation time to do the physical labor of the build. Meanwhile, Nine Line Foundation has a small core group that has had people doing fundraisers all over the country, said Hostler, who lives in Hawaii.
“That’s why, when I met Paddy, it was a perfect marriage because they are physically doing a lot of the work, and we can support from the monetary aspect,” she said. “We are out here (in New Braunfels) begging for financial donations and volunteer time.
“The unique thing about both of our nonprofits is that we’re both 100 percent volunteer,” Hostler said. “So every penny we raise goes to support the cause.”
These donations will result in a house for Eric Morante, a retired Marine sergeant who served three tours in Iraq.
During his third tour, he was severely wounded by a suicide bomber when an explosion resulted in the loss of his right leg above the knee, a shattered wrist and a traumatic brain injury, as well as other injuries.
“The community has been phenomenal with the support we’ve already experienced,” Neville said.
“I came down to do the house-hunting for Eric,” Hostler said. “And he gave me certain parameters. I actually started on the south side of San Antonio. … I knew he wanted the proximity to SAMMC (San Antonio Military Medical Center) for prosthetics, and then he threw out, ‘You know, I really want you to look in New Braunfels. It’s a good community.’
“You have to deal with the individual needs of each veteran,” she said. “Some of them are social and some of them need to have a lot of space. But Eric needs the social, he needs the environment of a community. He was injured 10 years ago, and it’s been a long struggle to come back, and it’s time for him to come home.”
The three settled on a place in Vintage Oaks, off of Highway 46, and Neville and Hostler found a contractor, David Esser, of Dry Creek Custom Homes, during their trip to New Braunfels last week.
The build itself will take place from Feb. 22 to March 3, 2018, a firm window because of Texas weather. About 15 people will arrive Feb. 20 to do some preliminary setup, but two days later they will begin at 7:30 a.m. and have the roof on by the end of the first day, Neville said.
“Like we said, it seems like chaos, but it’s organized and everything falls into place like a puzzle,” Neville said. “Each piece will drop into place and at the end of nine-and-a-half days we’ll be handing over the keys to a fully furnished, 100 percent mortgage-free house that will be done with products that are as maintenance free as possible. We want to lessen the burden on the veteran and start allowing them to transition into a normal way of life.”
From now through February, the two will continue making contacts in New Braunfels and fundraising, and every little bit helps, they said.
“We are not located here, so we are reaching out to anybody who can help us get the word out,” Hostler said. “Once the community knows about it, they’re excited to get involved, but it’s just getting the word out.”
For more information on A Soldier’s Journey Home, visit www.asoldiersjourneyhome.org or contact Paddy Neville at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Nine Line Foundation, visit www.ninelinefoundation.org, or contact Megan Hostler at email@example.com.