Homes for Our Troops in early stages of project in Whitewater
“This house means the world,” retired Army Sgt. Ryan Newell said Saturday when he received the keys to a house built for his family by volunteers.
Newell was wounded in 2008 in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb was detonated beneath a Humvee he was in. He was the only survivor of the attack, but doctors had to amputate both of his legs at the knee.
Newell was accompanied to the house by the Commanding Generals Mounted Color Guard from Fort Riley, officers from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and Marion Police Department, American Legion Riders, members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and volunteers.
The procession filled Tanglewood Lane; there wasn’t enough room for everyone under the canopy erected in the Newells’ driveway.
Newell urged the assembled crowd to remember other veterans, and to show the same generosity to them. He singled out retired Army Spc. Austin Burchard of Abilene, who was in attendance.
Burchard was on guard duty in Afghanistan when another soldier’s rifle accidentally discharged and hit him in the left flank. The wound paralyzed his lower body and left him confined to a wheelchair.
Homes for Our Troops, the same organization that coordinated the effort to build Newell’s house, is beginning a project in Whitewater to build a house for Burchard.
“Just to be here and see all the support, I can’t put it into words,” Burchard said after the ceremony. “We’re used to taking orders and doing what we’re told to do. The support is just awesome.”
Newell and his wife, Carrie, planned to begin moving into the house at 1001 Tanglewood Lane in Marion Saturday. They planned to spend the night in their new home, along with children Ethan, Skylar, Rylee, and Gabby.
Construction on the house began mid-April, with the intent to have it ready before Independence Day. The house has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large kitchen. The master bedroom has a spacious closet that doubles as a reinforced tornado shelter.
Volunteers add finishing touches Friday
Thomas and Michelle Kriss of Emporia read about the Homes for Our Troops project for Newell and his family online.
“I found out about the program when my dad died,” Michelle Kriss said. “We saw there was a home being built in Marion, so we came.”
The Krisses children, Tayler, who also helped, and infant Emary, accompanied them.
Superintendent of the project Ralph Kreutziger of Hett Construction appreciated the assistance Friday.
Some members of the Marion High School football team and students from the school’s construction class, along with faculty and coaches arrived Friday morning to assist with laying sod in the front and side yards.
Others helped indoors with cleaning fixtures and sweeping and mopping floors.
Carrie Newell was there Friday morning, holding Emary. She was pleased with the results of volunteers’ efforts.
Currently, the Newells live in an older, two-story home in Marion, making it difficult if not impossible for Ryan — who is a double amputee — to have access to the entire home.
“This will make a huge difference in our family dynamics,” Carrie said Friday.
Ryan will have access to every room in the house including the master bathroom, which has a walk-in shower.
Carrie is appreciative of volunteers and all who contributed to the success of the project.
“Anyone who helped with this project is welcome to come by for a visit,” she said “To be able to share this house with them would be amazing.”