For soldiers coming back from conflicts overseas, readjusting to civilian life is often difficult. It’s even harder for those returning with serious injuries.
Carl Madsen knows this at a deep level. The Minneapolis Local 292 member spent 20 years in the National Guard and retired with the rank of major in 2004.
| Minneapolis Local 292 members begin wiring the new home for injured Marine Sgt. Colin Faust.
“These service members come back and don’t really have many people who they can share their experiences with,” said Madsen, who is the administrator for the hiring hall and director of the local’s market recovery program. “It’s important to have a group of people to talk to, and to help get them what they need.”
And that includes appropriate housing.
Madsen and members of the local are helping to be a part of the solution. Nearly 40 apprentices, journeymen and retirees volunteered to wire a new accessible home for Sgt. Colin Faust, a Marine who suffered injuries from an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan. Faust lost his left leg, his right leg was severely injured and he now uses a wheelchair most of the time.
Working with the nonprofit group Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors, dozens of building trades members and other community volunteers have been hard at work since June on Faust’s new two-story home, located in Minnetrista in the southeast part of the state. Once principal construction was finished, Local 292 members spent two days in early September making the house’s amenities accessible for Faust. His new home will have electrical switches at reachable levels, a therapeutic bath on the main floor and an elevator leading to the walkout basement, among other features.
| Faust, background, stands with NFL player Jared Allen while a local TV news crew reports on the house’s groundbreaking. Allen’s nonprofit organization sponsored construction of the home.
Madsen said the project has been a collaborative effort between the membership, signatory contractor J. Becher Electric, the Minneapolis NECA chapter, the area’s labor/management committee and the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus.
NFL star Jared Allen, who plays defensive end for the Chicago Bears, established Homes for Wounded Warriors after touring U.S. military bases in the Middle East in 2009 and developing a deeper understanding of what life can be like for injured troops returning home.
"They weren’t necessarily getting their needs met,” Allen told www.chicagonow.com in a November interview. “I came up with the idea of building homes or retrofitting them for their needs. The reaction has been great. We have been able to get some great partners and we continue to grow each year, which allows us to build more homes. The work takes place all over the country. We just help where there is a need.”
The construction for Faust’s home marked the first time Allen’s organization had worked with building trades volunteers. “We started with the carpenters union, and it grew from there,” said Alex Karalexis, project manager for Homes for Wounded Warriors. “Building the house for Sgt. Faust has been an amazing effort. Without the support from Carl Madsen and the other IBEW volunteers, Colin would not be getting the quality home he’s about to move into. Not only did the IBEW and the contractor step up with labor for the electric and data installation, but they also picked up the tab for the materials. It was just unbelievable.”
| Local 292 volunteers with Faust’s parents, center, in front of the Marine’s new home.
Local 292 members are scheduled to go back to Faust’s new home between Christmas and New Year’s to install additional outlets, lighting fixtures and more before the Marine moves in next year.
“It’s great to thank troops when they come home, but it’s something else to help give them a place to live,” Madsen said. “And when you see not just Colin, but his parents, too – they show up and you see the gratitude in their eyes. It really means a lot.”
Local 292 Business Manager Peter Lindahl said his membership is more than grateful for the opportunity to give back. “We can’t thank these brave troops enough for what they have done for our country. How can we put a value on that? And still many come back injured and can be limited in what they can physically do. If we stood by and did nothing, what kinds of stewards of our fellow man would we be?
“I personally want to thank all of our members who gave their time to do this for Sgt. Faust,” Lindahl said. “He sacrificed for us – for our freedoms at home.”
To learn more about Jared Allen’s organization, visit www.homesforwoundedwarriors.com.