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Specially designed house helps a Milwaukee-area wounded veteran

 The new home in Muskego built for Iraq War veteran Bobby McCardle and his family.
Chuck Quirmbach
The new home in Muskego built for Iraq War veteran Bobby McCardle and his family.

Tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel were wounded in combat during U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A local man who lost much of his right leg during a tour of duty is the latest veteran to be given a specially adapted, custom home by a national group that helps some of the most severely wounded vets of the last 20 years.

Some of the housing innovations could also help non-veterans who have mobility concerns.

Chuck Quirmbach
Bobby McCardle walks into one of the rooms of his new home.

There were plenty of waving flags and patriotic speeches in Muskego Saturday, Dec. 11th during a ceremony that marked the handing over of keys to Bobby McCardle and his family, of a new home built for them.

Fourteen years ago in Iraq, while on his second deployment as a Marine Corps infantryman, Lance Corporal McCardle's vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. The blast resulted in McCardle losing much of his right leg. He also suffered from internal injuries and a traumatic brain injury.

When speaking Saturday with news reporters, McCardle suddenly lifted his right pant leg to show part of his prosthetic limb.

"You know, I got my pants on right now with this, but the war resulted in a lot of guys coming home with not just below the knee, but above the knee, double amputees, triple, quadruple. So, life as an amputee comes with its own set of challenges," McCardle said.

One of those challenges has been simply getting around the family's previous house in Franklin. McCardle explained how he occasionally needs to sit in a wheelchair.

"With the home we're living in right now, and usually when the leg has [to] come're kind of stuck in one bedroom and whatnot," McCardle said.

McCardle said that the wide doorways, no carpeting, and open floor plan of the one-story Muskego house means he should be able to go anywhere.

The Massachusetts-based group Homes For Our Troops raised the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to build the new home for the McCardles and give it to him and his family mortgage-free.

Chuck Quirmbach
The digital temperature control in the shower of the McCardle home.

The Homes For Our Troops executive director, Bill Ivey, showed some of the other special features of the house, including the large shower room, where Ivey set a digital temperature control and water began pouring out of shower heads on the wall and ceiling.

Ivey explained wounded vets often suffer burns, and need to be especially careful with water temperature settings. The room also has a wide entranceway and benches, so McCardle does not have to sit in a wheelchair.

In the closet of the master bedroom, there's another feature. Ivey pulled on a support pole, and horizontal metal racks that could hold clothing came down.

Ivey explained how that could be useful for a veteran. "Grab whatever, sport coat, dress, pair of pants, a shirt, whatever they need. Then, it will retract back up on its own. So then there's more access from their wheelchair to the entire closet, not just the lower set of clothes racks."

Chuck Quirmbach
This closet in the McCardle home has pull-down clothes racks, reachable by someone in a wheelchair.

Ivey said the Muskego home is the sixth home Homes For Our Troops has built in Wisconsin and the 324th across the U.S.

He said he thinks his group's age-in-place approach to building homes, hoping the younger veterans will be comfortable there for decades, is happening in the overall housing market.

"I think we're going to see more of that. The baby boomers, me being one of them, start to age, and of course, demand's going to drive that," Ivey said.

Ivey said his group stays in touch with the veterans and can adjust homes as needed.

McCardle said he's very grateful for the new house in Muskego. But the 35 year old also foresees the need for more adaptation.

"Just imagining the 60-year-old me, 70-year-old me, and challenges that will come because of those injuries," McCardle said.

Homes For Our Troops said, using numbers from the Veterans Administration, it estimates 1,000 more veterans who were seriously wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan and may need the adapted housing help.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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