Morton, Ill., Neighbors Protest New Home For Returning Afghanistan Combat Vet Brian Wood
A two-tour veteran of the war in Afghanistan, who earned two bronze stars but lost hearing in one ear, is finding out just what it means to “support the troops.” At least for some people.
Brian Wood, the 28-year-old father of three who works as a warehouse manager and still serves in the National Guard, says that he had trouble adjusting to civilian life at first. A native of Bartonville, Ill., he couldn’t find a decent home for himself, his wife Julie, 28, and their kids who range in age from 2 months to 8 years. He just couldn’t afford one.
In stepped their congressman, Aaron Schock.
“Our motto has always been we will never forget,” Schock (in picture, left) said. “This is a couple who made a sacrifice multiple times with multiple tours of duty. They served very honorably for our country and they are in need of a home.”
So the congressman set out to raise funds to get the Woods their own home. Habitat For Humanity, the nonprofit builder of homes for people in need, took over from there. The group found a lot in the Peoria suburb of Morton. Now the group plans to construct a $130,000 house for the veteran and his family.
Habitat workers would cover $50,000 with their labor. The Woods will pay the other $80,000 over the next 20 years.
But wait a minute! Not in my backyard, say the Woods’ prospective neighbors in Morton. At least some of them who have signed a petition against the new house going up in their neighborhood. The reason? The house is planned to be built of wood, not brick like other homes there.
“We were taken aback,” said a bewildered Wood (pictured). “At first, my wife and I were really hurt. We just felt they really don’t know us as a family.”
No one is sure who is behind the petition, but someone has been knocking on doors to get signatures and calls are coming in to the Habitat offices protesting the Woods’ new home. One caller said that a “covenant” in the neighborhood requires that homes be built of brick, though according to local newspaper columnist Phil Luciano, who reported the Woods’ story, no such agreement can be found in local or county records.
As for Brian Wood, the experience has been unsettling, even after taking enemy fire on a regular basis in Afghanistan. “It almost makes you feel you’re not welcome,” he said.