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Veteran injured in Iraq getting free, wheelchair accessible home

The veteran housing nonprofit has 43 projects that are currently under construction or in the permitting process.

MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. – A West Michigan veteran severely injured while serving in Iraq is receiving a free home from a nonprofit organization.

Retired Army Sgt. Michael Gower broke several bones and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after his squad’s vehicle rolled over an improvised explosive device in Baghdad on Aug. 2, 2007. Doctors have not ruled out amputating his legs.

Gower’s current home is not wheelchair accessible. Putting more effort in at home limits his ability to spend time doing other activities.

“[For example}, we have this on Saturday and this on Sunday,” Gower said. “[We have to] pick one because we’ll only make it to one. And then the other day I’m going to take to lay in bed.”

As thanks for Gower’s service, Homes for our Troops, a Massachusetts-based non profit, is building him a specially adaptive home in Middleville, Mich.

The mortgage-free home will be wheelchair-accessible with 40 adaptations, said Bill Ivey, executive director of Homes for our Troops.

“The whole idea is to restore some of that freedom and independence that they sacrificed due to their injuries,” Ivey said. “The American people: we pay a debt. We owe these men and women.”

The nonprofit has built six homes in Michigan and more than 260 nationwide since 2004. All recipients are also linked with pro bono financial services for three years.

“We stay with our veterans with a group of staff members whose sole purpose in life is to follow up with our veterans,” Ivey said. “If there are problems, we help them solve the problems.”

Ivey said HFOT has an extensive network of nonprofit, corporate and government partners it uses to provide resources to its veterans. Depending on weather, Gower’s home could be completed in April of 2019.

“On this home, we’ve poured the slab, we’ve framed it and they’ve started the roofing,” Ivey said. “So this home is well on its way to getting going.”

Kelli Gower, the sergeant’s wife, said the new home will free him up to pursue other activities.

“He always faces the challenge head-on,” she said. “And now he’s gonna have less challenges. And I just think he’s just gonna be even more amazing and find a ton of other things to do now that he can.”

The chair will provide more breaks and a “new lease on life,” Gower said.

“When I’m ready, I can go out and play ball with my son,” he said. “I can go out and help coach his flag football. I can help and be a better person out in our community.”

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