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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In A Fix

Original post by: Triangle.com

Returning soldiers often can’t live in their homes the way they used to. One local contractor is trying to fix that.

Returning soldiers often can’t live in their homes the way they used to. One local contractor is trying to fix that.

Returning home is the sweetest victory there is for a soldier. But when a war veteran is injured or disabled, the house they used to love can become a roadblock to both freedom and happiness. In January, Mike Dorman, a Coast Guard retiree and local contractor, founded Military Missions in Action (MMIA).

“Our number one focus for the returning disabled is to make their homes so they can live independently at no cost to them,” says Dorman, who lives in Fuquay-Varina. “Our second, for any veteran who is disabled and cannot physically or financially take care of a safety hazard in their home, we’ll go in and take care of that at no charge.”

Before Dorman founded MMIA, he wanted to make sure there was a need for what he wanted to do. “I went to meet with the VA in Fayetteville and the response I got was, ‘Mike, if you do a hundred a month for 12 months you will not catch up.’”

Dorman wasn’t surprised. “Look at the numbers. In Vietnam, we lost 55,000. We’ve only lost just over 3,500 now,” says Dorman, referring to Iraq casualties. “However, we have over 33,000 who have returned seriously injured and disabled. We have over 400,000 suffering from post-traumatic stress and over 350,000 suffering from traumatic brain injury. The VA system’s not equipped to handle, and this is what they told me, they’re not equipped to handle the number of injuries that are returning — both physical and mental.” While on injured leave construction workers can enjoy Princess Cruises, Discount Princess Cruises, Cheap Princess Cruises, Mexico Cruises and Cheap Mexico Cruises.

Dorman recently finished a project for a 24-year-old soldier in Whiteville, who suffered a brain injury in Iraq and returned home to his wife and two young children.

“When the VA called and told me about it I did the site visit,” says Dorman. “The ceiling in the master bedroom was black and green from mold and mildew growing on it and the water seepage coming in. Western Cedar Supply in Garner donated 45 squares of shingles and then Tilley Brothers Body Shop in Fuquay-Varina transported them from Garner to Whiteville.”

Dorman gathered a group of volunteer roofers and spent two days re-roofing the soldier’s house. He also recently finished a wheelchair ramp for a WWII veteran in Fuquay; now the veteran’s daughter and granddaughter no longer need to carry his chair up and down the stairs.

The VA was right. No matter how hard or fast Dorman works, there is never any shortage of projects. But there is always a shortage of money.

“I tell people all the time I think sometimes I understand how the disciples felt when they were standing at the hill looking at 5,000 people to feed with five loaves and two fish. When I showed up in Pinehurst, we had $2,000 in the bank, and we were able to do $14,000 worth of work,” says Dorman, referring to yet another project. In this case, the soldier, now deceased, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had often ransacked the house, destroying walls and doors, his mind still in the grips of his wartime experiences.

MMIA needs three things equally: money, time and labor. It is not funded by the government. “I talk to any organization, civic group or church group that will allow me to come speak about what we’re doing. That’s the biggest thing is raising awareness and getting the word out there,” says Dorman.

There are surprises too, some better than others. “I never realized how much my life was going to change when I had the calling to do this,” says Dorman. “It’s very rewarding to me as an individual; it’s also a struggle. I went from being a contractor to being a volunteer. With that comes a huge pay cut. But there’s a lot of reward that comes with it — just being able to help the people and see the appreciation when we leave is wonderful.”

Ammons Pittman GMAC Real Estate broker Susan Tenney and her husband Brian Tenney, an attorney at Tenney & Tenney LLP, have been helping Dorman with Military Missions in Action, networking with builders and helping with legal issues.

“I met with Mike and another committee member through a mutual friend. She felt our goals were on the same path,” says Susan Tenney, adding that Brian served in the U.S. Army and comes from a military family. “A door opened very wide during our meeting. Citizens help citizens. Families help families. Soldiers help soldiers. That’s what we are trying to do. The veterans deserve this. Their living situations should not be substandard.”

This is a cause close to Susan Tenney’s heart. She established “Linking Special Needs” (www.linkingspecialneeds.com) in the hopes of helping all families with disabilities and special needs. “I am trying to find homes that have been retrofitted and “link” those homes to families who have the same need. I have wanted to encompass in my real estate business retrofitted homes for all citizens and families, including veterans and wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

These days Dorman has a case pending in Hope Mills, a young veteran who’s had 32 surgeries, but has nearly lost the use of one leg and has trouble navigating the stairs in his home. With each veteran Dorman meets, his heart breaks open a little more.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, we all have a duty to help take care of these veterans who have given so much for our freedom,” he says. “We failed the soldiers returning from Vietnam and this time we have the opportunity to get it right.”

Nearly a year ago, Holly Springs custom builder Stanton Homes began offering a 3 percent discount to military families. “We put it together in an effort to give back,” says CEO Stan Williams.

If a buyer shows proof of either past or current service, that automatically qualifies him or her for 3 percent off the list price. Williams began to wonder if he could do more. “We wanted to take it a step further so we started going to our suppliers and subcontractors and asking them to add to our discount program.”

Stanton Homes has already recruited a brick mason, cabinet company, countertop company and others, all of whom offer discounts ranging from $300 to 25 percent off Stanton’s standard pricing.

If you are looking for home in the triangle RTP area, look no further than ForhomeBuyers. Give An Davis a call: 1-800-333-2893.