By TIM ROWDEN
More than a dozen SMART Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 members employed by Scott-Lee Heating worked a full day in the sweltering heat before packing up their tools and driving to Wildwood, MO to put in several more hours of volunteer work to help a wounded veteran, retired U.S. Army Sgt. Legrand Strickland.
Local 36 member Ken Schumer, a foreman for Scott-Lee, coordinated the effort.
“Several of the guys working for us are military or military veterans,” Schumer said. “Every guy I asked said they would be out here. After working eight hours in 98 degree weather, they’re out here donating their time.”
The home is being made possible by the Gary Sinise Foundation’s RISE program, which stands for Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment.
The general contractor on the project is Compass Design Build, which last year built a smart home for injured Ballwin Police Officer Michael Flamion, who was shot and paralyzed during a routine traffic stop.
Compass is owned by Peter Uetrecht, an experienced second generation home builder and his wife Jennifer, an award-winning interior designer.
“We’re completely humbled that they chose us to build the home for Officer Flamion and to build this second home for Sgt. Strickland,” Pete Uetrecht said. “We’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Stickland grew up in University City and joined the Army two years out of high school. After his first enlistment, he entered the National Guard as an Infantry Rifleman and graduated college with a degree in graphic design before re-enlisting as part of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Returning from a mission in Afghanistan on Feb. 2, 2010, Strickland’s convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) that struck his commander’s vehicle ahead of him. His commander survived the blast and joined Strickland in his vehicle. As they drove away, Strickland’s vehicle was struck by another large explosive.
Strickland’s commander and the driver were killed. Strickland was critically injured, lost both legs above the knee and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Strickland and his wife Carrie have two sons – Noah, who is in the U.S. Army and Nathan, who is a freshman in college. They modified their home to be more accommodating, but every day still presented challenges.
The new specially adapted smart home will help them both overcome his physical challenges together.
To donate, visit the Gary Sinise Foundation’s website at garysinisefoundation.org/donate (designating to whom your donation is being given) or mail to Gary Sinise Foundation, PO Box 50008, Studio City, CA 91614. Make checks payable to “Gary Sinise Foundation” and include a memo citing U.S. Army Sgt. Legrand Strickland as the donation recipient.