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Home for a soldier and his family becoming a reality

Managing editor

A slab of concrete on Country Club Drive was the promise of a new home that is becoming a reality after communities came together this past weekend for a common cause.

By Sunday evening, all but one side of the house was sided and more than one-half of the roof was covered.

“It’s just pretty amazing,” Sgt. Ryan Newell, for whom the house is being built, said Sunday evening.

The build brigade — part of the Homes for Our Troops project building a new home for Newell and his family in Marion — knew no boundaries.

It wasn’t just a Marion community project. Volunteers came from far and near to help — Nebraska, St. Louis, Kansas City, Topeka, Wichita, Haysville, Goessel, Peabody, and Hillsboro.

Under the direction of general contractor Ralph Kreutziger, the Marion High School construction class had been working prior to the organized weekend, building wall frames.

Jeremy Voth, owner of Voth Construction in Goessel, was the lead carpenter.

Why did the young builder get involved when he’s trying to get his own business going?

“I heard about it from Merle Flaming,” Voth said. “It’s a good cause and a good chance to help out another young person.”

More than 100 volunteers showed up early Friday morning for breakfast and the official launching of the project. During the course of the weekend, more than 300 donated their time.

Larry Gill, veterans’ liaison with the Homes for Our Troops organization, thanked everyone for their commitment and reminded volunteers that professionals built the Titanic but volunteers built Noah’s Ark.

“Never underestimate your value of being a volunteer,” he said.

Davey Hett of Marion said he was involved because he admired Newell’s determination to survive by tying his own tourniquets on his legs after being wounded in Afghanistan.

“Ryan has proved he’s a man who deserves a home,” Hett said. “He’s a fighter.”

The first wall was put in place by the build brigade with assistance from Newell, his wife, Carrie, and Carrie’s father, Tom Wunderlick.

After that, there was a flurry of activity as walls were set in place.

Months of preparation paid off.

By Friday afternoon, rafters were set for the roof. A crane, which was donated by a Wichita company, was used to move rafters to the roof into the waiting hands of volunteers.

The goal was to have the 3,200 square foot, one level home weather tight by Sunday evening.

Rain showers hampered some of the construction on Friday but did not dampen spirits.

The big day for volunteers was Saturday which much of the work was completed. Doors and windows were installed as were outside walls. Fewer workers than expected came Sunday but they did their best to get the project completed as much as possible.

An unusual roofing system, which was donated to the project, also slowed the process Sunday. The roof is a plastic composite that snaps together but is difficult to cut. The high-quality construction material has a 100-year warranty.

However, Kreutziger remains optimistic.

“We plan to have the entire house finished by the end of June,” he said Sunday evening. “We want to have a big Fourth of July celebration, welcoming the Newells to their new home.”

When local volunteers complete the roofing, professionals will come in and complete work for electrical and plumbing. Sheetrock will follow.

“We still need volunteers to help finish,” Kreutziger said.

Fortunately, most of the construction that requires professionals has been spoken for.

Making strides

Newell said the road to his recovery as a double amputee has not been easy. The Army sergeant lost his legs two years ago while serving in Afghanistan after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

He was walking around the building site this past weekend with his prosthetic legs, shaking hands with volunteers, thanking everyone for their support.

“It’s been a challenge,” Newell said. “I’m getting there to get my prosthetics right.”

Originally from Goddard, the Newell family is making Marion their home because Carrie grew up in the town and her parents still live here. Carrie and the Newell’s four children were living in Marion while Newell was serving overseas.

Carrie continues to go to school, working toward a nursing degree. Originally Newell was going to train in the field of prosthetics but he is looking for a career he can establish in Marion so he can become more involved in the community.

“I want to give back to everyone who gave to us,” he said. “If there’s anything anyone needs, just call me. I’ll be there. I’ll help any way I can.”

Newell is also appreciative of the welcome he has received from the area in general.

On Saturday, he participated in the dedication of a wheelchair accessible pier at Marion County Park and Lake, dedicated in appreciation of the service of Newell and Peter Richert.

Richert, of Hillsboro, lost a leg while serving in Iraq.

“I am so thankful to be here,” Newell said. “I really appreciate the handicapped dock at the county lake.

“This is our home and this is where we’re going to stay,” Newell said. “We’re home now.”

About the house

The one-floor, handicapped accessible space will have three bedrooms and a two-car garage.

A safe room with 8-inch reinforced concrete walls will also be used as a closet in a bedroom.

A roll-in shower will allow Newell to use his wheelchair to gain access as will lower counters in the kitchen.

About the organization

According to Gill, the organization has brought together 10 build brigades in April, three in the same subdivision in San Antonio.

With so many projects going on at one time, members of the organization do not lose sight of what is important.

“We have people who follow us from one build to another,” Gill said. “They do this because they care. Each build is personal.”

Even though some of the volunteers did not know Newell or his family, they wanted to help any way they can.

“We get calls all of the time from people around the country who want to know what they can do to help,” Gill said.

Many of them are veterans themselves who just want to help others.

Last modified April 22, 2010

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