Home For Our Troops Build Brigade Saturday

Army SSG Kelly Keck signs a few hard hats for volunteers helping to build his family's house Saturday on Old Level Road. (Nicole Munchel Aegis staff, Patuxent Homestead / June 16, 2012)

Going from a concrete slab Friday morning to a nearly finished home exterior Saturday afternoon, the home off of Old Level Road in Havre de Grace for Army Medic SSG Kelly Keck and his family was truly a sight to behold

The Build Brigade - non-profit organization Homes for Our Troops, local volunteers and contractors Bob Ward Companies - were well ahead of schedule just before lunchtime.

Roof shingles were being installed, some siding was already in place and people could begin to see the outline of various rooms.

Never forgetting the purpose of why they were there, volunteers could see a small tree sitting atop a roof peak with an American flag waving in the wind.


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When complete, the home will be wheelchair accessible and furnished to accommodate Keck, who lost his right leg while fighting in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Brittany Harker and Megan Edwards, Bel Air residents and friends, volunteered for the project and were ready to help any way they could.

"I thought I could spare some time and come and help out," said Edwards, who was home for the summer from Marymount University.

Harker said people from her brigade were on the site as well Friday volunteering.

Both were amazed at the amount of work that had been done.

"It's crazy how fast things are coming along," Harker said

Homes for Our Troops Community Outreach Coordinator Renee Larsh explained that the program is for people injured in combat, usually people who have lost a limb or two, and create a home that is specific to their needs.

She said that in Keck's home the doorways will be big enough for a wheelchair to pass through, cabinets will be easy to access in the kitchen and even the shower can be rolled into.

After the Build Brigade has done its part, a "licensed tradesman" will do the rest - install HVAC system, plumbing, lights, etc.

Then on Aug. 4, there will be another volunteer day to do landscaping, painting and general clean up. The entire project will be finished with a key ceremony, which doesn't have a date set yet, when the organization literally hands off the keys to Keck and his family.

"It's a very positive thing," Larsh said.

Keck was on site to see the progress being made and was treated like a hero.

Construction workers stopped to pose for pictures with him, several volunteers asked for signatures on their hard hats, which he gladly accommodated.

"It's amazing," he said. "Overwhelming at times."

The Army medic seemed shocked at all of the people who volunteered to build his future home. He said his family is "all kind of still in awe," but everyone was excited to see the final results.

"I'm definitely grateful," Keck said.

Keck was stationed in Afghanistan for about three months and patrolled an area in armored vehicles almost every day for weeks at a time.

One day, he said, a vehicle went over a pressure plate mine. He got out to see if anyone was injured when he stepped on a mine himself.

For two years, Keck has been in and out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. At one point, he met another soldier who introduced him to the Homes for Our Troops program, applied and heard the good news that he had been accepted.

"You don't think about the hardships," Keck said about coming home after suffering a horrific injury. "Stairs are the worst part."

Even when re-telling his story, Keck would often repeat one word: grateful. When talking about his family and his future home, he didn't stop smiling.

Under a tent where lunch was set up for the volunteers, Lynn Stadterman, of Aberdeen, asked Keck to autograph her helmet as a keepsake.

"I'll treasure this," she said. "His sacrifice is so great, to give a few hours to help is the least I can do."