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Lejeune tries to help families of wounded

By Estes Thompson - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Mar 13, 2007 7:46:08 EDT

When troops wounded in Iraq return to CampLejeune for rehabilitation, some bring spouses and children who need a quick place to live.

The Wounded Warrior Barracks were built for single Marines and sailors receiving outpatient treatment at the base’s medical center, and now a similar program is helping families find short-term housing on the coastal North Carolina base or in nearby Jacksonville.

The Hope for the Warriors program will receive two renovated 1,100-square-foot houses on base that have wheelchair-accessible showers and entrances, thanks to contractors who footed about $20,000 in renovations. Program organizers hope the houses will become the center of a community for wounded service members and their families.

“We look at this as an initial phase, but we hope to expand this into a larger complex where we can assist more families,” said Shannon Maxwell, vice president of Hope for the Warriors. “It affords them more privacy than if they were out in town.”

Maxwell, whose husband is a wounded officer now on active duty, said her ideal housing would resemble a hotel with private rooms and a common living and dining area where wounded troops and their families could share experiences.

The two houses will be formally handed over to the organization Thursday.

Alishia Graham, wife of wounded corpsman Jim Graham, said help from Maxwell’s organization — even before the houses were available — made the move from BethesdaNavalHospital in Maryland back to CampLejeune much easier.

Her 30-year-old husband was injured in Iraq when a mortar shell landed near him, shrapnel ripping up the right side of his body and tearing through his throat. He now has multiple medical appointments every day, he said.

When the Grahams and their 2½-year-old daughter Karleigh returned to North Carolina, Hope for the Warriors had found and furnished an apartment in Jacksonville, Maxwell said. The Grahams have since moved into base housing, and in each case, their housing allowance paid the rent.

“When we got back, there wasn’t a question of where we would go,” said Alishia Graham, 23. “It makes it a lot easier.”

The two renovated houses, plus one that serves as the program’s office, were renovated by contractors working on about 3,000 regular housing units at CampLejeune, said Marc Sierra, vice president of Actus Lend Lease. The development company works with the Navy and Marine Corps to renovate base housing.

“It’s all about helping these guys get adjusted into life,” Sierra said.