Veterans Association of America, Inc.
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Serving those who've served this Country

Groups Provide Homes For Disabled Vets

April 11, 2005

PENSACOLA, Fla. - Army Sgt. Jamvis Armour lost his right arm and sight in one eye, broke a leg and suffered burns over 40 percent of his body while in Iraq. And it got worse: Unable to serve, he no longer had military-provided housing for himself and his family.

In contrast with the scorn sometimes heaped on veterans returning from the Vietnam War, Armour and other former soldiers forced to retire on medical disability are finding local and national groups willing to provide housing.

Armour, 25, returned home in November. He spent more than year recovering from wounds suffered in a May 2003 grenade attack on his truck in Iraq.

The military had provided housing for his family while he was a soldier. But now he was on his own and partially disabled. Adding to the problems was a housing crunch created by Hurricane Ivan.

'We knew nothing was guaranteed,' said Armour's wife, Kiersten. 'We knew after the hurricane how hard it was to find a place.'

Local veterans groups and community leaders stepped in, putting the Armours up at a hotel at one of Pensacola's Navy bases, and launching a campaign to obtain a house for the desperate family.

Armour, his wife and their children - Alexis, 5, Gabrielle, 4, and Elijah, 2 - moved into a nearly new 2,500-square foot house three days before Christmas. It was theirs free and clear - thanks to an assist from the Housing and Urban Development Department.

HUD sold a repossessed house to Escambia County for $1 and it then was passed on to the Armours through the group Veterans in Need.

'It's surprising that people get together and do something like this,' Jamvis Armour said. 'Words can't even describe it.'

The effort was patterned after a similar one in neighboring Santa Rosa County and now at least two national groups have been formed to provide more houses for disabled Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

'It's sort of catching on,' said John Gonsalves, founder of Homes for Our Troops in Taunton, Mass. 'People are now, throughout the country, starting to look at this and see that there is a need.'

Last year, Roger Chapin created the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes in McLean, Va. Since then, the group is planning to build its first five homes in Ohio, Georgia, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Texas.

More than 11,600 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq including about 6,000 unable to return to duty within 72 hours , according to Pentagon data. The latter figure includes troops, such as Armour, who were disabled by their injuries.

The personal support that veterans from the recent conflicts are receiving at home has stirred up memories of the Vietnam War for some involved.

"The main thing to me was honoring and helping the troops of today because of the way we were treated back then," said Navy veteran Terry Sanders, president of the Escambia County Veterans Roundtable.

Armour's injuries sidetracked his plans for a civilian career in music. He was wounded the same day he was supposed to be discharged before his enlistment was involuntarily extended.

In Pensacola, his aunt, Alma Strong, learned of a handicapped-accessible house built for a National Guardsman who had lost both legs in Iraq. She decided to seek similar help for her nephew from U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller.

Miller's office eventually contacted the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and the Veterans Roundtable, which formed a fund-raising committee to help Armour and possibly other local casualties.

The right-handed Armour is learning to use his left. He still has difficulty walking and seeing, but hopes to fully regain the sight in his right eye after a few more operations.

Now he can do so in a spacious brick house - repainted, repaired and furnished by Veterans in Need.

"We knew he had no home to come to," said retired Navy Lt. Barbara Turner, the chamber's military program manager. "All of this effort was nothing but the community doing its part for a local hero."