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Helping soldiers into homes

090807keil1_oTracy Keil has just one requirement for their new home.

"Enough bedrooms to have kids," she said. "We've got a lot of time on our hands."

I'm beginning to wonder about all the great articles our local papers have been printing as of late.  This morning I awoke to another one, detailing the assistance Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Keil and wife Tracy received thru the American Military Families organization.

AMF is the organization Colorado chose to help channel funds raised thru our 'Support The Troops' license plates.  These plates were an idea that my state Senator and I came up with a couple years ago.  Sen. Lois Tochtrop (D-Brighton) and I worked a bill thru the legislature, with AMF, and got a bill passed to have a special plate made for supporting the troops.  All you need to do is donate 25 dollars to AMF and you become eligible for a plate.

This story details what the results of this support can do.

Story can be found HERE

Vet gets home of his own
Pulte, nonprofit team to provide custom housing

Co_troops

Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Keil came home from Iraq to a world full of obstacles that had never been obstacles before: doorknobs to turn, stairs to climb and hallways too narrow for his wheelchair.

But in the next year or so, Keil and his wife, Tracy, will come home to a world custom-made for them - one with automatic doors, extra-wide hallways and no stairs at all.

And it won't cost them a cent.

Pulte Homes and the nonprofit Homes for Our Troops, which builds specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans free of charge, just need to find a lot in Parker so the couple can be close to family. After that, the project will take about eight months from groundbreaking to move-in.

"It's a dream come true, that's for sure," Keil said Friday at a news conference at Craig Hospital, where he has spent the past three months undergoing intensive rehabilitation for quadriplegia.

An Iraqi sniper's bullet left Keil paralyzed from the neck down in February. Since then, the 25-year-old soldier has regained the ability to breathe on his own - a huge accomplishment for someone in his condition - along with some movement in his left arm.

But Keil needs help with most everyday activities, and Tracy Keil needs help to help him. That's why the house will be outfitted with all the latest technology and any specialized changes the Kiels want, including roll-in showers, extra-wide hallways and doorways, automatic doors and the electric hoist Keil needs to be lifted in and out of bed, said Kirt Rebello, project director for Homes for our Troops.

"It's a place they can call home for the future," he said. "We feel it's the least we can do."

The couple was surprised with the announcement about their home-to-be at the Aug. 11 "Hoedown for Heroes" charity event hosted by American Military Family, the support group behind the Colorado "Support the Troops" specialty license plates.

"Everybody in the room knew except us," Keil said. "I just started crying."

The Massachusetts-based Homes for Our Troops has built 15 houses nationwide and has 20 more under way.

One of those homes is in Hartsel, and it's designated for Sgt. Chris Fesmire, a Marine who lost his legs in a land mine explosion in Iraq.

After they leave Craig on Wednesday, the Keils plan to live at Parker Hilltop, an apartment complex that agreed to install a roll-in shower at its own expense. The couple is eager to host a barbecue in their new digs and help plan the details of their future home.

"We're excited to see it being built, and we can't wait for the groundbreaking process, the volunteer day when everybody comes out who's going to build everything," Keil said. "And the day the key (opens) the front door."

Tracy Keil has just one requirement for their new home.

"Enough bedrooms to have kids," she said. "We've got a lot of time on our hands."

Helping hands

Supplies needed: Homes for Our Troops wants to hear from suppliers, plumbers, electricians, framers and anyone else who would like to help build the Keils' new home. Look for more information at homeforourtroops.org or contact Director of Projects and Veterans Affairs Kirt Rebello at 866-7-TROOPS or [email protected]

What is Homes for Our Troops? It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2004 to help severely injured troops and their families through fundraising and donations of building materials and labor to build a home or adapt an existing home for handicapped accessibility. It is based in Taunton, Mass. For more info, go to homesforourtroops.org.

What is American Military Family? The group, which helped arrange the Keils' new home, is a nonprofit support group for soldiers and their families. For more info, go to americanmilitaryfamily.org.

Keil benefit: 1 p.m. Sept. 15, American Legion Hall, 5421 E. 71st Ave., Commerce City. American Legion Post 151 and VFW Post 4444, the event sponsors, need donations of auction items. For more information, call the American Legion Post at 303-288-7178, the VFW Post at 303-227-9291 or Joe at 303-717-6794.

How to donate: Make checks payable to "Matthew Keil Supplemental Care Trust" and mail to: Members Trust Co., Western Division, 6875 E. Evans Ave., No. 200, Denver, CO 80224

Online: Follow the progress of Matt and Tracy's home project on their blog at org/visit/matthewkeil. Contact Matt and Tracy at [email protected]

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