After injuries while serving in Iraq, retired Staff Sgt. Timothy Kramer was unable to do simple things like put his children to bed or cook a meal for his family.
Homes for Our Troops hopes to change that. The nonprofit, which has built more than 325 homes for combat-injured veterans across the country, is building and paying for a home for Kramer, a 41-year-old Bayard Native, and his family in Minatare.
The project officially began with a kickoff ceremony on February 5th.
“The community kickoff marks the beginning of the build process,” said Teresa Verity, the organization’s marketing officer. “And it’s also a way for us to engage the community.”
Kramer served two deployments to Iraq from 2003 to 2007 as a military police officer for the Army. During his second tour, Kramer served as a security detail with the 58th MP Company in the 25th Infantry Division.
On August 6, 2006, during his second tour, Kramer was transporting detainees when his unit encountered enemy fire and their vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device, he said in a video interview with Homes for Our Troops. Kramer suffered a traumatic brain injury, but remained in Iraq until the end of his deployment in 2009.
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After returning to the United States, Kramer had other health problems. He had a stroke that left him unable to use his left hand and foot, and suffered hearing loss in both ears, seizures, and traumatic headaches.
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Kramer, who is now medically retired, said he struggles to complete everyday tasks at the family’s current home in Bayard, where many of the doors are too narrow for his wheelchair, including the children’s bedrooms, and the closets are too high for him reach.
The new home will have four bedrooms and two bathrooms and will feature adjustments including widened doorways for wheelchair users, a roll-in shower, and a kitchen with pull-down shelves and lowered countertops.
“When you hurt yourself like that, it’s the little things that count that I don’t think people see,” he said. “Cook dinner for your family on the stove, put them in their crib, rock with them.”
Kramer said he and his wife came across the Homes for Our Troops website and figured there wouldn’t hurt to apply, but they didn’t expect to be selected.
“We were like, ‘Yeah, right? Who’s building a house in Nebraska?’” he said. “Nobody gets stuff like that out here; it just doesn’t happen.”
When they got the call that Homes for Our Troops would actually build them a custom home and pay for the family to fly to Boston to learn more, Kramer said he was thrilled.
“They really changed my life, they will change my family’s life and they will lighten my family’s burden,” he said.
Kramer and his wife Cassidy have three daughters: Destinee, 21, Raylyn, 10, and Brynley, 3, and three Cocker Spaniels. Kramer said he enjoys taking his family on camping trips and is a huge Husker football fan.
At the project’s launch event, family friend Melanie Dolby described Kramer as “the ultimate girl dad” and said his positivity was contagious.
“If there’s one thing we can learn from him, it’s his attitude to life,” she said.
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Cassie Nichols, director of inaugural services for U.S. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, read a message from Sasse at the launch event congratulating the Kramer family on their new home.
“Nebraska is a great state and we appreciate your dedication to raising your family here,” he said.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson sent a video message also celebrating the project and thanking Kramer for his service.
“What an important service it is to show our appreciation for your work in physical form,” he said.
Verity of Homes for Our Troops said numerous factors can affect how long it takes to build the Kramers’ home, but the construction process typically takes six to nine months.
John Hilgert, director of the Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs, spoke about the importance of a safe and accommodating home for a veteran’s family in a video message shared at the launch event.
“It gives the veteran a home base, if you will, to move on and move on with their family,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what’s being built in Minatare when I get the chance.”