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Ray Duckler

Ray Duckler: A quiet man creates a lot of noise

  • Ssg. Matt DeWitt gets a kiss from his fiancee Catrina Peck after speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014 on the lot of land where the national non-profit Homes for Our Troops will build their family a home in Hopkinton.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Ssg. Matt DeWitt gets a kiss from his fiancee Catrina Peck after speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014 on the lot of land where the national non-profit Homes for Our Troops will build their family a home in Hopkinton.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Members of the Contoocook VFW Post 11490 stand near the foundation of Ssg. Matthew DeWitt's new home before presenting the colors at the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Members of the Contoocook VFW Post 11490 stand near the foundation of Ssg. Matthew DeWitt's new home before presenting the colors at the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Volunteers decorated the shovels that were used at the groundbreaking ceremony for Ssg. Matthew DeWitt and his family for their new home in Hopkinton that Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Volunteers decorated the shovels that were used at the groundbreaking ceremony for Ssg. Matthew DeWitt and his family for their new home in Hopkinton that Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Kevin Dubois (right) and his wife Kayla and four-month-old son Elijah traveled from Rhode Island to attend the event. The couple just moved into their own house that Homes For Our Troops helped build. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Kevin Dubois (right) and his wife Kayla and four-month-old son Elijah traveled from Rhode Island to attend the event. The couple just moved into their own house that Homes For Our Troops helped build.
    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Kevin Dubois (right) thanks Ssg. Matthew DeWitt after speaking at the ground breaking ceremony for DeWitt's family's new home in Hopkinton that Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. Dubois, a soldier who lost his legs in combat, and his family just moved into their own home in Rhode Island with the help of Homes For Our Troops. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Kevin Dubois (right) thanks Ssg. Matthew DeWitt after speaking at the ground breaking ceremony for DeWitt's family's new home in Hopkinton that Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. Dubois, a soldier who lost his legs in combat, and his family just moved into their own home in Rhode Island with the help of Homes For Our Troops.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Ssg. Matthew DeWitt (center) and his wife Catrina and sons Reed, 6, and Levi, 3, break ground on their new home in Hopkinton that Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Ssg. Matthew DeWitt (center) and his wife Catrina and sons Reed, 6, and Levi, 3, break ground on their new home in Hopkinton that Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Ssg. Matt DeWitt gets a kiss from his fiancee Catrina Peck after speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014 on the lot of land where the national non-profit Homes for Our Troops will build their family a home in Hopkinton.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Members of the Contoocook VFW Post 11490 stand near the foundation of Ssg. Matthew DeWitt's new home before presenting the colors at the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Volunteers decorated the shovels that were used at the groundbreaking ceremony for Ssg. Matthew DeWitt and his family for their new home in Hopkinton that Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Kevin Dubois (right) and his wife Kayla and four-month-old son Elijah traveled from Rhode Island to attend the event. The couple just moved into their own house that Homes For Our Troops helped build. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Kevin Dubois (right) thanks Ssg. Matthew DeWitt after speaking at the ground breaking ceremony for DeWitt's family's new home in Hopkinton that Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. Dubois, a soldier who lost his legs in combat, and his family just moved into their own home in Rhode Island with the help of Homes For Our Troops. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Ssg. Matthew DeWitt (center) and his wife Catrina and sons Reed, 6, and Levi, 3, break ground on their new home in Hopkinton that Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit, is helping them build on Saturday morning, June 28, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Matt DeWitt is a man of few words, in a noisy world of war and patriotism.

He lost both arms because of an improvised explosive device in Iraq 11 years ago, shortly after the first U.S. troops entered Baghdad and changed the Middle East, if not the world, forever. He uses hooks for hands, his arms gone below his elbows.

So yesterday, under a tent in Hopkinton, on a quiet street that will be DeWitt’s new neighborhood by the holiday season, ground was broken on a house built to add more independence to his life.

“I’m excited to be part of this community,” said DeWitt, the event’s final speaker. “I can’t wait to get here and move here.”

That’s about all the 37-year-old Hillsboro-Deering High School graduate said, but those there yesterday, about 100 in all, had a clear, resounding message for him: Thanks.

Homes for Our Troops is the core behind that message. In its 10th year, the nonprofit raises money, mostly through private donations, to build specially adaptive houses for the more than 1,700 service members who have come home from war with life-altering injuries since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

DeWitt lives in Weare with Catrina Peck, whom he’s marrying in October, and their two boys, Reed, 6, and 3-year-old Levi.

In their new home, shelves will roll out, making utensils and canned goods easier to reach. Faucets will be controlled by motion detectors. Doors will open at the push of a button.

“We’re both very excited,” Peck said during a phone interview last week. “It’s a little bit overwhelming. It’s a start to a wonderful new beginning. It’s amazing to see all of our supporters there, people who love him and want to help him as much as I do after what happened.”

DeWitt wouldn’t say much about what happened. We know he was a calvary scout in the Army, part of the initial invasion force that wrestled Baghdad and those gaudy palaces away from Saddam Hussein.

On July 22, 2003, DeWitt was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and lost both arms. He returned home after six months of surgeries and rehabilitation.

Then he met Peck and his life changed.

“To me, he’s a strong man,” Peck said. “To go through something like that and to still want to fulfill your life and do the best you can in everything you do, to me he’s a great man, an inspiration.”

That’s why all those people, friends, family and future neighbors, showed up on a perfect summer day. That’s why retired Gen. Richard Cody flew in from Washington, D.C.

He’s the chairman of the board of Homes for Our Troops, and he wanted to thank DeWitt for his service, while also thanking those in attendance for making the event possible through their donations.

“We’re celebrating yourselves as Americans,” Cody said. “You don’t have to wear a uniform to serve our country. This isn’t a charity; this is our duty.”

The public’s sense of duty also helped Kevin Dubois of Rhode Island, who came to Hopkinton with his wife, Kayla, and their 4-month-old son, Elijah.

Dubois sat in a wheelchair near the lectern. He lost both legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2012, during his second tour of duty.

It happened while Dubois was clearing a landing zone for a helicopter, needed to evacuate an injured Marine. He was hospitalized for three months and rehabbed for a year.

He lived with his in-laws for a year, in a two-story house with an upstairs bathroom.

“I had to grab the handrail and grab the stairs,” Dubois said, shortly before the ground-breaking ceremony began. “I had to drag my butt up the steps.”

But last December, Dubois and his wife moved into a home built by Homes for Our Troops. Now, among other things, the countertops are lower, making Dubois’s life easier, and he felt the need to come here for DeWitt.

“I’m here to support another veteran who has gone through a similar tragedy,” Dubois said.

Then, after wheeling himself to the lectern, he told the crowd, “You’re giving them and you gave me a fresh start in life. Thank you for that.”

When the speeches were finished, DeWitt, Peck, Cody and others posed for photos. They pushed a small pile of sand around with red-white-and-blue shovels, a ceremonial scene for the cameras and the dozens of people who watched and applauded.

Then, one by one, DeWitt stood for more photos, with people who wanted to show their appreciation. They wanted to cheer and clap and make a big deal out of a man who had sacrificed so much, in a country that continues to explode with violence, all these years later.

“I’m not the best public speaker,” DeWitt said, shortly after the ceremony. “But this is worth it because I’m trying to get the point across. This means a lot.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments2

Thanks Ray, 1. Reference you wrote: " He returned home after six months of surgeries and rehabilitation." where? At The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center? http://www.wrnmmc.capmed.mil/SitePages/home.aspx of that used to be called just the "Army" Medical Center? and still is called such as in the comment by Jason Letterman over at http://greatnonprofits.org/reviews/homes-for-our-troops-inc/ back in May of 2011 as one of the fifteen (15) reviews for this non-profit outfit with a great comment by Chuck Moss back in Oct. 2012 of: " This is is one of the few charities for veterans which gives most of the money for the benefits of veterans and not for advertizing or for salaries. I was disappointed to learn that only about half of the money donated to Wounded Warriors goes for the benefit of veterans. " https://www.hfotusa.org/ plus: 2. I could not find that Andy Rooney quote over at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/35924.Andy_Rooney that I remember him saying on an old episode of the CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" of he did not "lose" his limbs, but that they were "taken" from him. Plus from James Joyner, a fellow vet who wrote at: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/08/stop-feeling-sorry-for-american-veterans/261844/ = " While the public may see veterans as saps who volunteered to do a dangerous job. . . We owe those who suffered permanent wounds, physical or psychological, the best care we can give them " . So like N.H. RSA Ch. 93-B:1-9 provides for when a public servant does damage to a N.H. Article 12 inhabitant by not doing their job correctly, there's that $100,000 faithful performance bond to pay the victim, then what bothers me is that yes- the Federal government paid for the #___ surgeries over six (6) months, but then what? if they had no home to go back to, of to leave them homeless, UNLESS some non-profit outfit comes to the rescue!? How much is this one house going to cost? It seems to me that all these Federal Funds filtering through the G&C could be put to better use than just the "wants" but to take care of these "needs" first of food, clothing and shelter. And "Uncle Sam" to collect such $funds in a LAWFUL manner! that is NOT being done now as with too many players on the field as they say in football of too many M.O.C.'s / Members of Congress, that of the end result does NOT justify the means or process in getting them over there to be destroyed to the 45% amount according to: lilrissie over at theatlantic dot com website: " 45% of today's veterans are filing for disability claims" getting what? food and clothing but no shelter!?

God bless you all! Thanks for stepping up people and taking care of our veteran!

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