Foundation Helps War Vets Buy Homes

Retired Marine Sergeant Miguel Delgado and family

hide captionRetired Marine Sergeant Miguel Delgado stands with his wife and one-year-old daughter at the front of their new house in Zion, Ill. Delgado was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, and received assistance to purchase a new home from the Wounded Heroes Foundation.

Cheryl Corley, NPR

The nearly 30,000 troops wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are starting to seek help in large numbers. The Wounded Heroes Foundation, a nonprofit group in Illinois, helps provide financial assistance to war veterans. Its assistance recently allowed two veterans to buy homes.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This next grim statistic is sometimes seen as good news. Thirty thousand American troops have been wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many would have died in past wars when medical care was worse. The rest of the story, though, is that many veterans are home now seeking help in large numbers. And this morning, we'll report on one Illinois non-profit that is expanding its mission to help vets chase the American dream.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports on the Wounded Heroes Foundation.

Unidentified Man #1: Firefighter, (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

CHERYL CORLEY: With the cheering crowd, the fire truck moving to reveal a brand new two-story home and a big, red and white welcome home banner on the door of the attached garage, this was an exciting moment for 26-year-old former Marine Sergeant Miguel Delgado and his family.

Sergeant MIGUEL DELGADO (U.S. Marine; Retired): It means the world to us because, you know, a lot of guys aren't coming back home.

CORLEY: Delgado served in the Marine Corps for seven and a half years, and in Iraq for six months. On his last mission, two weeks before coming home, he was injured by a roadside bomb.

Sgt. DELGADO: It went off and it tore my artery and shattered my femur and shattered my heel.

CORLEY: Delgado's new home in Zion, Illinois, north of Chicago, is roomy - four bedrooms, two and a half baths, enough space for him, his wife, Christian, their one-year-old daughter and another child on the way. Christian was admiring the large walk-in closet.

Ms. CHRISTIAN DELGADO (Sgt. Miguel Delgado's Wife): It looks like a second room.

CORLEY: Anna Sherony is co-founder of the Wounded Heroes Foundation. She says her son came back home uninjured from Iraq more than four years ago, but other mothers weren't as lucky. The foundation decided it needed to do more than distribute care packages so it approached developers about building homes for wounded veterans at reduced prices.

Ms. ANNA SHERONY (Co-Founder, Wounded Heroes Foundation): We would love to have the homes completely paid for. That would be a true dream. But that's not something that can be reality and try to help as many heroes that we can. So our goal is to make sure that they can afford their mortgage on their V.A. benefits.

CORLEY: Sherony says about 40 percent of the Delgado's home cost was covered by donations from the developer and subcontractors.

Unidentified Woman: One, two, three.

Unidentified Man #2: Move that way.

Unidentified Woman: That way.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

CORLEY: While the Delgados checked out their new home, a groundbreaking ceremony was underway for retired Army National Guard Sergeant Gabriel Goriga(ph). His new home will be built just a few lots down the street.

Sergeant GABRIEL GORIGA (U.S. Army National Guard; Retired): It means so much to me and to all the veterans and our families, too, and everything. It's just - you can't really put it in words.

CORLEY: Goriga is 23 years old. The red mottled skin on his hands and arms as evidence of the fiery Humvee accident in Iraq, which left second and third degree burns on 45 percent of his body. He was given little chance to live, underwent 30 surgeries with more to come, and was in a hospital in Texas for two years.

Sgt. GORIGA: My mother quite her job and stayed down there the entire time. And about half the time I was there, my brothers came down, too, because, you know, I was getting better. There was a point, about a year out, where I took a turn for the worse again because of my internal injuries. So my brother ended up quitting his job and coming down.

CORLEY: With no jobs, they lost the family home. This new home is set to be complete by the end of the year. And Gorigo's mother and brother will live with him.

Deer Point Homes is offering at least three homes here at discounted rates to wounded veterans. The head of the company, Richard Pietranek, says he didn't need any convincing.

Mr. RICHARD PIETRANEK (Founder; CEO, Deer Point Homes): They defined our American dream, and we build the American dream. So it only seemed appropriate and fitting that we would build the American dream for them.

CORLEY: Officials with the Wounded Heroes Foundation say the homes in Zion are just the beginning of their effort to partner with developers across the country to build homes for even more wounded veterans in need of affordable housing.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News.

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