Kayla Morong, ’12, Sports Editor
On July 8,2009 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Marine Sgt. Joshua Bouchard was in a vehicle that drove over a pressure-plated improvised explosive device (IED). Bouchard, a Granby, Mass., native, was traveling with four other Marines; two on his team did not survive. When he hit the ground his back immediately broke and he suffered a traumatic brain injury.
He was treated at a military hospital in Germany and then airlifted to Bethesda, Maryland, where he spent two weeks at Bethesda Medical Center. After his recovery period, he began intensive rehabilitation at McGuire Virginia Medical Center. He stayed at the center for 11 months doing intensive therapy. Now Bouchard is hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
The organization Home for Our Troops is providing injured military men and women like Bouchard a home, helping them rebuild their lives. A non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 2004, the foundation strives to help troops disabled by war have a place to live, honoring their dedication to the country. The homes that are built feature a single-level open floor plan with roll-in showers, roll-under cooktops and sinks, as well as other accessible options.
Bill Pennington of Andover decided to raise awareness of Homes for Our Troops throughout his community. He is now helping to raise money for the construction of Bouchard’s home.
It is Pennington’s second year of promoting Homes for our Troops in the area. So far, he has raised $110,000 at a big gala event, which was held in October. Now, he has scheduled a road race called Run/Walk for the Troops 5K, which will kick off at 9 a.m. April 1 in downtown Andover. Pennington hopes to reach his goal of $350,000 with the support of runners and walkers who decide to contribute.
“Troops go under great stress every day, so days like this help lift their spirits. Everyone who comes to this event will feel that they have helped the people who keep our freedoms and will feel great about that,” said Pennington.
Last year, 1,200 people participated in the event. This year, Pennington hopes to see 2,000 people donate to the organization. When racers cross the finish line they will receive a medal for their support and honor. Also, the first to sign up before March 23 will receive a free long-sleeved T-shirt.
With the race around the corner, registration is open online at www.RunForTheTroops5k.com. If you register by March 24, the entry fee will only cost $20. Those who chose to register after the date will have to pay $25. On the eve of the race, there will be a fundraising dinner on March 31 for those participating. Dinner tickets can also be bought online.
Once the goal of $350,000 is met, Bouchard will have the chance to live in a home that allows him to do the things he loves. Looking toward the future, he hopes to learn how to walk again, further his education and spend time with his family.
Bouchard is thankful for what Home for Our Troops has done to help injured veterans throughout the nation. He said,“Receiving this home from Homes for Our Troops will give me a sense of freedom and take away the worry about where I will live and whether my home is accessible to me.”