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Skating into town

While in Nawzad, Afghanistan, in October 2009 — on his second tour of duty in the war zone — an improvised explosive device cost Marine Sgt. Josh Sweeney both his legs. But it didn’t claim his spirit. Case in point: He was co-captain of the gold medal-winning 2014 U.S. Paralympics sled hockey team that competed in Sochi, Russia. by: COURTESY PHOTO - Shown here playing sled hockey for the gold medal-winning U.S. Paralympics Team in Sochi, Russia, in February, Marine Sgt. Josh Sweeney and his family will soon move to Hillsboro. Their new home is being provided by Homes For Our Troops, a national nonprofit.

This fall, he and his wife, Amber, will be moving into a beautiful new home in rural Hillsboro thanks to Homes For Our Troops (HFOT).

Based in Taunton, Mass., HFOT helps veterans and their families by raising money, providing building materials and professional labor, and coordinating the construction of homes that “provide maximum freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently,” according to its website. Since its inception in 2004, the nonprofit has helped build 166 new homes nationwide, and currently has 39 active projects. HFOT provides these newly constructed, specially adapted homes for post 9/11 veterans who have returned home with life-altering injuries — at no cost — allowing them to live mortgage-free and to concentrate on rebuilding their lives.

Regionally, the national organization has so far completed homes in Sandy and Parkdale, Ore., one in Washington and 22 in California.

Sweeney and his wife will be moving to Oregon in mid-May from San Antonio, Texas, where he recently completed two years of rehabilitation and physical therapy at Brooke Army Medical Center. Prior to San Antonio, he spent another two years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

“We selected Oregon as the state where we wanted to live and raise our kids, and we’re excited to be moving to Hillsboro,” said the Arizona native, who has undergone more than a dozen surgeries. “We’ve been living in a one-bedroom apartment that presents many challenges that frustrate me. With a home specially adapted to meet my needs, I know my life will immediately become less stressful, and I will feel more capable of doing the things I want to do with my life.”

Groundbreaking for the home on Southwest River Road is set for Saturday, April 26, and Fish Construction of Portland has been selected as the general contractor. Jeff Fish, president of the company, said subcontractors are being contacted, and he is in the process of obtaining the necessary building permits.

“The home will sit on a two-acre lot, and be a one-story, 2,300 square foot, four-bedroom, two-bath home with a double garage,” explained Fish, whose company has participated in Habitat For Humanity projects in the past.

Fish said constructing this Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant house will take approximately five months. He added that there are 10 national companies that will be donating items such as bath fixtures, kitchen appliances, cabinets, trusses and siding, and a local company will be donating the roofing labor.

“But,” he said, “we’ll still be looking for other in-kind donations of materials and labor. If corporations, companies and individuals are looking for ways to honor and help veterans, there’s no better cause than this.”

Sweeney, who scored the winning goal in the sled-hockey match against Russia last month in Sochi, said it’s been three years since he approached by HFOT.

“It’s taken this long to start building the home because of my busy schedule of rehab and training for the sled hockey team,” Sweeney said.

When asked what he’ll be doing when he becomes an Oregonian, Sweeny said he plans to seek a degree in engineering, wants to get involved with the disabled community and start work in establishing a Portland sled-hockey team.

“My wife just passed her nursing boards, and will be looking for a job. I’ll be looking for opportunities to talk to other disabled kids and adults to help them see what they’re capable of doing,” he said. “I think my gold medal will surely help with that. I also love to hand-cycle and play wheelchair basketball, and I want to be actively involved in both these activities.”

Once the house is completed, Sweeney added he’d like to put in a shop and work on restoring an antique car.

“I’m done with rehab, and I’m pretty much maintenance-free now. But I do keep lots of Advil handy,” he joked.



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