FORT HALL, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - An injured Fort Hall veteran got a new home Saturday at no cost to him.
A police escort and countless veteran bikers filled the driveway that led to a newly built home for Cpl. Phillip Baldwin. Baldwin is a United States Marine veteran.
The house was built by "Homes for Our Troops", a national organization that builds custom, specially adapted homes for disabled Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans to fit their specific needs. The home took about a year to build.
"We build where the veteran wants to live, our tagline being, 'Building homes, rebuilding lives,'" said Bill Ivey, executive director for HFOT. "The really important part is assisting veterans to continue on with their lives and to rebuild their lives."
"You know the Vietnam vets don't really have anything like this and you know ever since then, they swore an oath and made a turning point and everything else is really good so yeah, I feel real privileged and honored and grateful," Baldwin said.
Baldwin's house is number 235 for HFOT. Ivey said each home costs about $440,000 to build. HFOT is a non-profit organization so they rely on fundraising and donations. Ivey said about 70 percent of their monthly income is from individual donations. The rest comes from large corporate sponsors and some grants.
In 2011, Baldwin was on a security patrol in Kajaki, Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED explosive device. He lost both legs, suffered 80 percent hearing loss and severe internal injuries.
Ivey said being able to build these homes for veterans is a great way to repay them for their service and sacrifice.
"I am truly blessed to get out, to see the American people, to see these veterans start a new chapter in their lives in a fully accessible home so that in our homes which are completely accessible to someone in a wheelchair," Ivey said. "They don't have to rely on anybody."
Ivey said their focus is to help the most severely injured veterans returning home.
"The first selection criteria is being badly injured enough to qualify for special adaptive housing benefits from the Veterans Administration," Ivey said. "Those are criteria that are set by Congress, adjudicated by the VA, essentially we build for the most severely injured veterans. So our guys and gals are multiple amputees, paralyzed or severe traumatic brain injury."
The house has more than 40 special adaptations, such as widened doors and hallways for wheelchair access, lowered counter tops and a roll-in shower.
Ashley Furniture also showed up Saturday morning and surprised everyone with furniture for the home.
Baldwin said having his own home, and that it's mortgage-free, is incredible.
"Man there's not even words that can explain how stoked I am right now," Baldwin said. "It's pretty amazing. It's just really heartwarming and I feel just overwhelmed. It was pretty good, a breath of fresh air."
This is the third "Homes for Our Troops" house in Idaho. More information on the program can be found on its website.