September 1, 2016
AUBURN, Ky. — For many of America’s injured servicemen and women, life after the military can be a challenge. But as retired Army Sgt. J.D. Williams and his family discovered, achieving independence at home doesn’t have to be a chore.
For the Williams family, having a home to call their own has been a long time coming.
“I think half of my daughter’s life she grew up in a hotel room,” J.D. told CBN News. “It’s just been pretty stressful for the past few years that I’ve been injured.
On October 9, 2010, Williams stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and the explosion took both legs and an arm.
“I remember rolling over on my back and looking at my hands and it was all covered in blood and looked over at my right arm and noticed that it was gone,” he recalled.
“They weren’t really sure what his injuries were, what was going to happen, if he was going to make it,” his wife, Ashlee, said.
He did make it, but the road back has been slow and long.
“Someone gave me the advice when this first happened, ‘Things will be better tomorrow. Today might not be the greatest day, but tomorrow might be better, so don’t give up,'” Ashlee said.
It’s been a journey full of unexpected blessings!
House of Valor
First and foremost, the Williams family has a new home that J.D. calls his “House of Valor,” one built with his specific needs in mind.
Kelley Paul, wife of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., serves on the board of Helping A Hero, the organization that provided J.D. this home.
She recently gave CBN News a special tour of the custom-designed home.
“(They have a) double oven, low oven, so J.D. can cook,” Paul noted. “Wheel chair can fit under the sink so there’s no getting out of this housework. Do the dishes, roll up. They have an antler chandelier because J.D.’s originally from Montana and he loves to hunt.”
In the process of being a blessing to veterans and their families, Paul has found herself blessed in the process.
“You just see the light in people, you see God working through people,” she told CBN News. “People are so grateful sometimes to have the opportunity to express goodness.”
‘God’s All Over It’
Some 90 injured veterans across more than 20 states now live in homes that allow them to be self-sufficient.
“Just to be able to watch him live his life again without asking for help, you can’t ask for anything better than that,” Ashlee said of her husband.
Everyone CBN News talked to said they felt the same way – especially construction business owner Bennie Jones, who wasn’t too keen on helping out in the beginning.
“I didn’t want to do this,” he said. “I’m telling you the truth. I didn’t want to do this.”
But Jones added, “God wouldn’t let me not do it. You can tell when God’s voice is talking to you. You walk around this house; you just feel the Spirit of God all over it. It’s all over it.”
But when asked to help, people often end up giving more.
“This is one of the few projects that people actually call you up and say, ‘Thank you for asking me to give, for letting me have the opportunity to change this family’s life,” Meredith Iler, national chairman and founder of Helping a Hero, told CBN News.
One anonymous donor mailed $500 in $20 bills to builder Larkin Ritter.
“That’s what’s been neat,” Ritter said. “No one wants credit. They’re all just, “What can I do?”
A Bipartisan Effort
The four-bedroom home is worth around $400,000, but Helping a Vet helped complete it for about $150,000 in cash.
Sen. Paul joined forces with Kentucky Democratic Sen. John Yarmuth to raise money for the organization.
“Democrats and Republicans don’t always agree in Washington — that’s a newsflash,” he quipped. “But one thing we do seem to come together on is trying to help our wounded veterans.
Jones agreed, saying, “Whether you believe in the war or not and you see what this family has been through, and what he gave and his sacrifice for this country, it’s very little that’s asked of us.”
‘It’s No Sacrifice’
But J.D. won’t call it a sacrifice.
“I was a very fortunate leader not to lose anybody on both deployments and still be here today,” he said. “And I did take an IED out of harm’s way and I lived through it.”
Life is better in some ways than it was before. J.D. hunts and kayaks. He knows without a shadow of a doubt that his prayers were answered.
“I remember looking up at the sky and asking God to give me one more chance and for Him to come back and have all these good people who live right here build us a home. It’s definitely God,” J.D. said.
“I felt like I died that day and went to heaven,” he added. “I feel like a better man today than I was before I got injured.”