Building Homes for Heroes recently helped a Gretna veteran overcome one of his greatest challenges — returning home.
As a member of the U.S. Army for nearly 20 years, Sgt. 1st Class Troy Reilly has traveled the world, serving along the east and west coasts of the U.S., as well as in Germany, Thailand, Guatemala, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
For his service as a member of the 1192nd deployment unit, Reilly, a native of the West Bank, has received numerous medals and commendations during his service, including the Bronze Star Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the Army Commendation Medal (fifth award), Army Achievement Medal (fifth award), Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal (second award), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon and the Overseas Service Ribbon (second award).
Reilly is proud of his service and the honors he’s received, and he’s happy to be home. Yet, being home may be one of his biggest challenges.
“Like so many veterans, I face a lot of issues,” said Reilly, 45, who suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, panic disorder, degenerative joint disease, lumbar and bilateral sacroiliac joint disease and recurrent depression. “I have medical problems due to different injuries, so it’s difficult to find work. And for a while, I didn’t have a home to go to, so I ended up living in my car.”
While Reilly, who grew up in Gretna, continues to deal with his medical issues, he no longer has to worry about where he will reside. Thanks to Building Homes for Heroes program, Reilly recently moved into a newly renovated home in Marrero.
Located off Barataria Boulevard, the house is approximately 1,900 square feet and includes four bedrooms, two baths, a complete kitchen, a dining room, living room, a patio and a garage.
“There is plenty of room for my four children, and it is not very far away from their mother’s home,” Reilly said. “Just when you think things aren’t going to work out, something good happens.”
According to its website, www.buildinghomesforheroes.org, Building Homes for Heroes, founded in 2006, builds or modifies homes and gifts them, mortgage-free, to veterans injured while serving the country during the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Reilly’s is the first home of as many as six to be built in Louisiana and given to veterans who have more than an 80 percent disability due to his or her service.
To further help veterans, the organization has added programs, including financial planning services, family funding and emergency support. Each home recipient is provided with a financial planning representative with the aim to provide the new and sometimes first-time homeowner with advice and guidance needed to maintain expenses and to plan for a successful future.
“I love my house,” said Reilly, the son and stepson of Sandy and Sterling Chauvin. “I feel very comfortable here, and my kids — Shelby, Troy Jr., Sarah and Jacob — seem happy here, as well. I still need some more furnishings, but the house is great.”
The modifications and renovations made to Reilly’s home were completed by Zeringue’s Construction and Remodeling in Westwego. The work included a walk-in tub in one of the bathrooms, handrails in all bathrooms, an upgraded kitchen complete with all appliances and granite countertops, outside lighting, new attic stairs and hurricane shutters for outside windows.
“Building Homes for Heroes contacted us and asked if we would be interested in taking on this project,” said Malcolm Zeringue, who was in charge of the project. “After researching the Building Homes for Heroes organization, I couldn’t wait to get started.
“SFC Reilly is a special customer and will always be. My team and I were honored to be a part of the project. In my opinion, all heroes deserve to come home to a home. And we will continue to stay involved with Building Homes for Heroes for as long as needed.”
Now serving one weekend a month with the Army Reserves at the James H. Diamond United States Army Reserve Center in New Orleans, Reilly said he still has physical and mental challenges to deal with but he’s glad to be home and have a place to call his own.
“I still have a hard time believing this house is mine,” Reilly said. “To have a home that is mortgage free is huge blessing for me. This house is the stepping stone I needed to help me restart my life.”