Miguel Delgado of Waukegan, Ill., had every intention of building a career in the Marine Corps. All that changed when he was severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. His femur and heel were shattered and the femoral artery was torn apart by the bomb. Miguel retired from the service as a sergeant and began work as an apprentice to become an electrician. With ongoing medical needs that limit his ability to work, Delgado's hopes of buying a home where he and his wife, Cristhian, could raise their baby girl, Ohani, seemed completely out of reach - until he met Anna Sherony and Rich Pietranek Sr.
Sherony is founder of the Wounded Heroes Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping wounded service men and women. Pietranek is president of Deer Point Homes in Wauconda, Ill.
This week, the Delgado family got the keys to a new four-bedroom, 2 ½-bath home in Shepherds Crossing, a 238-home neighborhood in Zion, Ill.
"It's more beautiful than we expected," Delgado, 26, says of his new, 2,400-square-foot home. "It's big, which is really good for our growing family. My wife loves the kitchen."
They're buying the house at a 25 percent discount as a result of the generosity of Pietranek, many of his trade contractors and suppliers, the city of Zion, and the Wounded Heroes Foundation.
"There's no way we could have afforded this house without the help of Anna and Rich," Delgado says. "Our monthly payment is just perfect for what I make and what I get from the military."
From the first meeting with the Delgados, Pietranek says, it was clear that they didn't want something for nothing. "They were looking for assistance, not charity," he says. "That came through very loud. That was the last thing they wanted. That did it for me. It made it so easy to contact the contractors and get the participation."
Pietranek says that even with the slower housing market, his trade contractors and suppliers were happy to pitch in to help with donated material and labor to make the Delgado's house more affordable.
"We had a luncheon for the contractors that Anna and Miguel came to," Pietranek says. "About 50 people showed up. When they heard Miguel's story, they had tears in their eyes. It's very difficult for these [veterans] to get government assistance after they leave the service. You look at their dedication - they're more than willing to go back and fight for our country again. They don't want pity; they just want to be treated like an equal."
The participation in the project was so enthusiastic - the donated materials and labor came to $130,000 in assistance - that Pietranek was able to offer a similar discount to another wounded veteran. Retired Army Sgt. Gabe Garriga, 23, was gravely injured in Iraq, suffering second- and third-degree burns over 45 percent of his body, he was given just a 1 percent chance of survival and underwent extensive surgery and rehabilitation. His parents lost their home after they took time away from their jobs to be with him in the hospital. He'll live across the street from the Delgados in a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch house.
The assistance is a powerful tool in helping wounded veterans rebuild their lives, says Capt. Paul Armenia, the peace time/war time support team officer for the Weapons Company, Second Battalion, 24th Marines, in Waukegan, Ill. "Anytime you have veterans coming back and they're injured or they're not able to work like they were before, it's going to be hard for them to pick up," Armenia says. "The amount they get compensated isn't always enough. It's great that a builder is doing this."
Sherony and Pietranek both say they hope that this is the beginning of a wider program to match builders with wounded heroes in their communities who would like to buy homes.
"We're not asking for anyone to give them a home," she says. "We want them to live the dream they were going to live if they weren't wounded. ...It's a great way of giving them the head start they need."
Delgado says he can testify to the fact that, unfortunately, there is ample opportunity for builders to help out.
"What Rich is doing is great," he says. "I'm going to be the first, but hopefully there will be more. There are a lot of us out there."
For more information on Deer Point Homes, visit www.deerpointhomes.com. For more information on the Wounded Heroes Foundation, visit www.woundedheroesfund.net. Sherony also encourages builders to visit Homes for Our Troops, www.homesforourtroops.org, an organization that builds and remodels specially adapted homes for the most severely injured veterans.