Home Sweet Home For Injured Marine

A marine who was shot in the back and partially paralyzed near Baghdad in 2003 will get a fresh start with a new home near Sugar Land. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, it's part of a program that helps wounded vets get ready for life after their injuries.

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At Houston's Veterans Hospital, Marine Corporal Paul Gardner isn't used to microphones, or much attention at all for that matter. The shy 25-year-old from Oklahoma has been on the mend since he was shot by a sniper four years ago. He'll soon be the proud owner of a home built in cooperation between Houston Area Rotary Clubs and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes.

"It's really good to know fellow Americans are looking out for you and everything when you come back from Iraq. Whether they're for the war or against the war, the main thing that they care about is the troops and that means a lot. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum that they're on, they care about the troops and that's what matters."

Gardner and his fiance Ashley plan to marry later this summer and move into their new home when it's complete.

"I'm very excited about it, living my life, a very happy life with my new fiancee and future wife. I can't wait. Life's good."

Their home will be in the Sugar Land area, with most of the costs donated by local businesses. The Houston Rotary Club's Meredith Iler says Gardner's new home is the result of a community that cares about its injured soldiers.

"Riverstone subdivision, which is a Johnson Community Development, is actually donating the lot and Perry Homes is very generously building the home at low cost and then the community has come together and very generously paid for the remainder of the home except that Paul will get to contribute $50,000 which allows him to participate with us in putting this home together for him so that he can continue to be the leader of his home."

Organizers plan 15 more homes in the Houston-area for severely injured veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ray Clifford is the executive director of the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes and says Houston sets the pace when it comes to caring for injured soldiers.

"We are in awe of what the Rotary Club and the developers here are doing, the community in general. It really sets an example for the rest of the country to follow. A lot of folks say the VA should be taking care of the service members, or the DOD. In fact, it's everybody's responsibility and the Rotary Club has really stepped-up in a huge way, so we're honored to be a part of this program.

You can find out more about the program through a link on our website, KUHF.org.

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