Kevin Blanchard and his fiancée Myra Khan have settled on a lot in the new Westlake Hills section of Crozet for their new house, which will be built by Homes For Our Troops, a private non-profit foundation based in Taunton, Massachusetts.
The foundation builds mortgage-free, handicapped-accessible homes for severely wounded veterans across the country—about 200 of them since the organization’s founding in 2004.
Works starts on the Blanchard house this month. Blanchard described it as an L-shaped ranch, all one floor, with a two-car garage and a back porch.
Blanchard applied to the Veterans Administration for a grant to get a house three years ago. Once it happened, he turned the money over to the foundation to get the house built. They will hold a community kick-off event July 30 at Old Trail Golf Club beginning at 9:30 a.m., and they’re hoping 200 people will come. They will ask for volunteers to help with landscaping near the end of the project.
Blanchard, originally from Botetourt County, lost his lower left leg in a roadside bomb explosion in northwestern Iraq in 2005. He was driving a Humvee and was the most seriously injured. His right leg was badly damaged too, but healed after some 30 surgeries and 13 months in Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where his prosthetic leg was fitted. “I’m still recovering, working on pain and flexibility,” he said. He said he enlisted out of high school “because I wanted a heck of a challenge. And I got it! But no regrets.”
Blanchard is writing a book about post-traumatic growth. “My experience was a blessing,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything. I want to help people who have PTSD see things differently. I put on a backpack and trekked South America for six months and learned Spanish. I spent eight days with an Amazonian tribe in Bolivia.”
He went to George Washington University and studied international business, graduating in 2011. He went to work for a lobbying company in D.C. and left it recently to write the book and start a company, Journey Beyond Recovery.com, that uses social media to help people with traumatic experiences to tell stories and do crowd-funding. He said the book treats 12 categories of traumatic experiences, including rapes and earthquakes.
The wedding will be September 25 at King Family Vineyards in Crozet.
“We want a nice small town,” he said. “It’s beautiful here and it’s close to the University. We love to be out in nature, and we wanted a well-educated community too. We’re excited to get involved locally and help out.
Find out more about Blanchard’s book at the book’s website, onelesstraveled.com.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Homes for Heroes builds 200 houses per year for disabled vets. It has built 200 houses for vets since it was formed in 2004.