Program helps veteran by giving a mortgage-free home: Homes for Our Troops will get a home built with wheelchair access.

Date Thursday, 7 July 2011 12:00 AM

By Barbara Anderson

Justin Bond lost a leg from injuries in an ambush in Iraq nearly seven years ago, but that hasn't kept him from moving forward with his life – and even starting a nonprofit organization to help fellow injured soldiers.

Now a national nonprofit and a central San Joaquin Valley homebuilder have joined forces to help Bond, a Hanford veteran. They're building him a handicapped-accessible home – with no mortgage.

"God has always taken care of me and our family, and this is like another blessing," said Bond, 34.

Homes for Our Troops, a foundation created in 2004 to build homes for disabled post-9/11 servicemen and women, picked Bond and his family to get a new home. Selma-based G.J. Gardner franchise owners Jeff and Mona Kreiter will be in charge of construction.

The Massachusetts-based nonprofit has about 30 homes at various stages of completion around the country. Each year it gets hundreds of applications – 50 veterans are on a waiting list. This year, the organization built its 100th home. Justin Bond and family

Justin Bond, a disabled veteran from Hanford, sits with his family, from left, son Jared, 8, daughters Jennifer, 4 and Makayla, 2-1/2, and wife Laurel while visiting the lot where G.J. Gardner Homes is building a wheel chair-accessible home. Bond helped start a local nonprofit organization to help fellow injured soldiers and now a national nonprofit has selected Bond and his family to receive a mortgage-free home.

Homes for Our Troops is largely supported by donations of labor and materials, as well as corporate and private fundraising.

Bond is eligible for up to $63,780 in a federal Specially Adapted Housing grant, to help with the building costs. His home will be built by G.J. Gardner. The Kreiters have volunteered to oversee construction and find subcontractors to donate materials and labor.

"Whatever is not covered, then Homes for Our Troops covers the cost," Mona Kreiter said. "We're not making any money, but that's fine. That's not why we're doing it."

With the Kreiters supervising, a "building brigade" of volunteers will work for three days to get the walls up, windows in, doors hung and siding on. People can provide everything from food for the workers to the construction labor itself. The interior work will take about 90 days, said Dawn Teixeira, Homes for Our Troops executive director.

Bond's application stood out, Teixeira said.

"He does a lot of nonprofit work. He's just one of those guys always looking to 'pay it forward,' " she said.

About five years ago, Bond started Wounded Soldier and Families Relief Fund Inc., to help bring family members to the bedsides of wounded soldiers. That disbanded when the government assumed the role. About two months ago, Bond started Our Heroes' Dreams, a nonprofit to help injured war veterans with recovery. He also volunteers with Segs4Vets, a nonprofit that provides Segway scooters to veterans who are amputees or have other injuries affecting mobility.

In August, Bond and a team from Our Heroes' Dreams plan to ride Segways from Reno to Monterey to bring awareness to war-related disabilities and donate Segways to veterans along the way. And next April, he will begin a ride from California to New York.

"I left brothers and sisters over there fighting," Bond said. "This is my way to help out."

Last year, Alabama veteran Dave Riley met Bond at a Disabled American Veterans convention. Bond gave him a Segway from Segs4Vets. Riley, a quadruple amputee, was a Coast Guard rescue swimmer. He lost his limbs from a bacterial infection 14 years ago.

Bond is a "really good man," said Riley, 51. "He's just going full throttle all the time for the vets and for organizations like Segs4Vets and Our Heroes' Dreams."

Since meeting, the two men have forged a friendship. Bond calls just to lift his spirits, Riley said. "He really does portray that there's a life ahead and gives people hope."

Bond knows what veterans who have lost limbs are going through – the depression, the embarrassment of going outside in a wheelchair.

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