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Buckley volunteers help build home for injured OIF combat veteran

PARKER, Colo. -- Levi Ragan puts up weather stripping before windows are installed on the  home  being constructed for Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, May 11, 2012. Ragan is a staff sergeant attached to Detachment 6 Aerospace Data Facility at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., and was one of about 60 volunteers from Team Buckley who came out to help with the construction. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Levi Ragan puts up weather stripping before windows are installed on the home being constructed for Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, May 11, 2012. Ragan is a staff sergeant attached to Detachment 6 Aerospace Data Facility at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., and was one of about 60 volunteers from Team Buckley who came out to help with the construction. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, poses for a photo as volunteers work on his home May 11, 2012. Approximately 60 volunteers from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. helped with the construction of Orchowski's new home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, poses for a photo as volunteers work on his home May 11, 2012. Approximately 60 volunteers from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. helped with the construction of Orchowski's new home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, and his son Colton spend time together May 11, 2012. Approximately 60 volunteers from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. helped with the construction of Orchowski's new home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, and his son Colton spend time together May 11, 2012. Approximately 60 volunteers from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. helped with the construction of Orchowski's new home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Alvin Magneson, left, and Joshua Sill put up a wall on a home that's being constructed for Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom war vet, May 11, 2012. Magneson and Sill are both sergeants attached to the Marine Air Control Squadron 23 at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., and were two of about 60 volunteers from Team Buckley, who came out to help with the construction. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Alvin Magneson, left, and Joshua Sill put up a wall on a home that's being constructed for Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom war vet, May 11, 2012. Magneson and Sill are both sergeants attached to the Marine Air Control Squadron 23 at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., and were two of about 60 volunteers from Team Buckley, who came out to help with the construction. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Volunteers work on a home for Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, May 11, 2012. Approximately 60 volunteers from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. helped with the construction of Orchowski's new home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Volunteers work on a home for Nick Orchowski, an injured Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, May 11, 2012. Approximately 60 volunteers from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. helped with the construction of Orchowski's new home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

PARKER, Colo. -- Approximately 60 individuals from Team Buckley volunteered during the weekend of May 11-13, helping construct a 2,700 sq. ft. single-level home for Nick Orchowski, a former Soldier who sustained a spinal cord injury while deployed to Iraq in 2004.

Orchowski's convoy was hit by an enemy vehicle a couple weeks into his deployment. Orchowski was in the gunner's hatch during the moment of impact, tossing him from the vehicle. When he hit the ground his shoulder jammed into his cervical spine leaving him a quadriplegic. About four months into his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington D.C., he had to have a procedure done removing an infection from his spine.

When the doctor was cleaning the infection he snipped a couple nerves, in result it caused Orchowski's leg to move. When he woke up from the surgery he was able to move his legs and left arm.

According to Master Sgt. Ryan Wortman, 2nd Space Warning Squadron current operations superintendent, Orchowski is one of seven in the world to be diagnosed as a incomplete quadriplegic. He has no feeling from his neck down, but can still walk and has use of his left arm.

"This home will be built absolutely around his particular injury or anticipated disability," said Sarah Vanderhill, Homes for Out Troops volunteer ambassador.

His spinal cord is so weak, doctors anticipate one day he will be in a wheelchair.

Since they're building his home to meet quadriplegic standards, the ceilings will be reinforced with a track that will be able to carry Orchowski from his bed to bathroom and other areas throughout the home. Some other amenities will include fully accessible counters and shelves along with temperature controls, this way he can safely run bath water for his children. There is no carpet in the home and room to move and turn around a wheel chair. The doorways will be wider than usual and he will have keycards so doors will open automatically.

"There won't be a point in this house he can't reach," Vanderhill said.

She also mentioned there has been overwhelming support and Buckley's assistance and involvement have been nothing short of amazing.

When Wortman learned about the project, he knew this was something he had to rally up support for.

"(I) couldn't let this build go by and not bring the base in to it," Wortman said.
So he got involved and rallied as many men and woman from Buckley as he could that were willing to volunteer and got to work.

"(We're doing this) first and foremost to give back to those who have sacrificed so much for us. We can never repay, as U.S. citizens, the sacrifices (our wounded warriors) have made, and their families have sacrificed to support them and take care of their long-term injuries," Wortman said. "It's important for our Airmen, Marines and Sailors to recognize that and give back what we can and if it's just to come out and put up a wall or help with some landscaping, that's pretty awesome."

The home will also be fully donated by the organization and there will be numerous energy sufficient commodities, this way the family won't have to worry about barely any energy bills.

Orchowski sounded thrilled and excited with the support that came out to help.

"All the involvement, with everybody coming out, especially Buckley, it means the world to me and my family," he said. "It just makes you feel that much more proud for what you've done for your country. To see the communities that have come together, that have never met me, it's almost overwhelming in a lot of good ways."

He then continued to talk about the opportunities that will result with his new home being built.

"Being a barrier-free home is going to open up so many more doors for me with (my) disability. My family can rest assure I'm safe at home by myself, they don't have to do as much for me," Orchowski said.
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