May 26, 2009 Leave a comment
Published: Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A day in the life of a Marine. Corporal Timothy J. Jeffers, United States Marine Corps, 22, dismounted the convoy to lead a security sweep traveling through Iraq’s Anbar Province. Jeffers took a few steps off the road looking for improvised explosive devices (IED). Unfortunately, an IED discovered him first, leaving him with critical wounds on two-thirds of his body.
Jeffers sustained severe abdominal and head injuries, lost both of his legs above the knee, a finger on his right hand and his right eye. It was May 18, 2006.
Now, with almost three years of intensive medical care and rehabilitation, Jeffers made his return trip to his hometown in Clarksville, AR, receiving a hero’s welcome.
Unknown to Jeffers, another hero’s welcome was waiting for him at his home in La Mesa, CA when he returned April 27, 2009.
Southwestern College’s Student Veteran Organization (SVO), was invited by the Warrior Foundation to the surprise unveiling of Jeffers “Extreme Home Makeover.”
While Jeffers spent time back home, the Warrior Foundation and Rebuilding Together San Diego were hard at work remodeling Jeffers’ home which was not equipped for a disabled man using a wheelchair and prosthetic limbs to get around.
SVO donations to the Warrior Foundation, through Wieners for Warriors, a series of fund raisers on-campus, purchased new furniture for his new digs.
Every platoon has its leader. In this project, that leader was Sandy Lehmkuhler, Warrior Foundation Chair. Lehmkuhler received a call from Jeffers’ “Gunny,” wondering if Warrior Foundation would be able to make more enhancements to what they had already created for him earlier. Lehmkuhler called the Electricians Union, which contacted Rebuilding Together San Diego, and the ball rolled uphill from there. This ball made it to the top of the hill with a two-week notice.
“America, land of the free, home of the amazing,” said Lehmkuhler. “I really feel that it is important to let the SVO and Southwestern College know just how hard-earned donations are spent. You know that you all have helped to create a quality of life that this Warrior has never experienced in his life, till now, till Southwestern’s vets group helped make it happen.”
Jeffers was surprised and awed as he went through his home, amazed with everything down to his Purple Heart, which he had tucked away in a drawer which is now displayed prominently on the wall, along with his medals and flag. Friends and volunteers offered to fix anything he felt he needed.
“It doesn’t need anything,” said Jeffers. “You have taken care of everything.”
SVO Staff Advisor Jim Jones said that he is very proud of how the SWC community responded to the SVO’s Wieners for Warriors events, with some people paying as much as $30 for a hotdog.
“This would not have been possible without their support,” said Jones. “It’s a testament that Southwestern College truly cares about our men and women in the Armed Services.”
SVO members, the Warrior Foundation and the many businesses and individuals from Rebuild made this project happen and had an opportunity to see the renovation, before Jeffers arrival.
Completely remodeled on the inside and then spit shined, the home was ready for inspection. In true military fashion, no detail overlooked.
Doors were widened throughout the house. In the kitchen, everything was accessible with lowered counters and appliances. Cabinets on rollers pulled down for easy access, pushed out of the way when not in use. A huge L-shaped couch sat in the middle of the living room, leaving plenty of room for Jeffers to maneuver around. Mounted TVs in the home created much-needed mobility space. From the closet to the faucet, every part of the home had been hand tailored to fit Jeffers specific needs.
Vicky Wesche, senior designer at Basset Furniture in Chula Vista, said that when she first looked at the place, everything was too big. There was no way for him to get around in his own home.
“It was worth every ounce of effort,” said Wesche. “Everything turned out excellent. I am so impressed with what each vendor contributed in the project. I know how to do this and everyone involved went above and beyond.”
SVO Treasurer Desiree Galos said that she is so thankful to have participated in the event and was happy that the remodeling of Jeffers’ home was completely successful.
“Every detail, from the furniture to the framed Purple Heart hanging over the fireplace was done with such thoughtfulness,” she said. “I could just feel the love and support that was put forth from the community.”
SVO President David Bonafede said that he thought the whole event was wonderful.
“It was great to see how the community supports our troops,” he said.
It had been a long trip for Jeffers so the crowd did not stay too long. As well wishers trickled out the door, he moved from his wheelchair to the couch.
“My God, this is comfortable,” he said as things quieted down and he nestled in.
Marines have an unwritten rule that is adhered to as much as written regulations. Marines take care of Marines, all the way. This is certainly true in this case, but it goes even further. Veterans take care of veterans, Americans take care of Americans and our community takes care of each other, including the veterans who have served their country.