STE. GENEVIEVE COUNTY • Gratitude filled Cpl. Justin McLoud’s voice Saturday, moments before he opened the door to a home custom built to meet his needs.
It had been a little more than two years since an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan took his legs and his left arm. He had worried about what he would do for a home. Now, he owns a house built with special shelving; lifts for the shower, tub and bed; wood floors and easy-to-reach electrical outlets and light switches.
“I will never be able to find another house like this,” he said.
He invited a group of about 100 supporters, many of them veterans, to step inside. “It’s going to blow your mind,” he said.
His mother, Karri Weiss of Cedar Hill, thanked those who made the house possible. “He’s going to be OK, and I won’t have to worry about him as much,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
Gratitude extended back to McLoud and his family, too. “You’ve already paid for it, brother,” a booming voice called from the back of a tent set up on the driveway.
The four-bedroom ranch sits on a quiet, three-acre lot in northern Ste. Genevieve County. It is the second built in Missouri by a group called Homes for Our Troops. Nationwide, the organization has finished 117 homes for severely wounded veterans since 2005, said Larry Gill, its veterans’ liaison.
McLoud was the last of seven veterans who received keys to their new homes in the run-up to Christmas.
Gill said the group has a long list of other veterans it wants to help.
In McLoud’s case, a $100,000 donation raised by Missouri credit unions helped build the house. So did sweat from hundreds of volunteers and donations from other businesses.
McLoud, a 2006 Hillsboro High School graduate, served with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, a group that saw a lot of action and a lot of casualties. As a fire team leader, he was on a foot patrol on Dec. 10, 2010, in northern Helmand province.
A fellow Marine stepped on a pressure plate, he said. McLoud was right on top of the explosive device. Both survived but lost limbs.
Dozens of surgeries followed.
McLoud learned about the Homes for Our Troops organization from Army Staff Sgt. Robert Canine of Columbia, Mo., who was the first to receive a house.
McLoud, too, stressed the importance of reaching out to those currently serving. He said care packages and letters meant the world to him and his men when they were in Afghanistan. Not everyone had family at home to support them, he said.
“There are people there who are alone and don’t have anyone,” he said. “Just keep that in mind.”
That sense of duty to help fellow veterans and their families showed itself in another quiet way Saturday. A woman clutched a teddy bear sewn from cloth with a Marine desert gear pattern. It bore the name “Vinnedge” across the front.
Julie Vinnedge said the bear offered her a little comfort during an emotional day. Her son, Lance Cpl. Phillip Vinnedge of St. Charles, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan in September 2010. He, too, served with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
Vinnedge said she keeps in touch with other regiment families, and she came Saturday to offer support and encouragement. “I just want Justin to be a success,” she said.
For more information about Homes for Our Troops, visit homesforourtroops.org.