CHACON, N.M., Feb. 28, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Keith Smith wakes up each morning thinking about his tour of duty in Iraq. He gets up and goes to bed each day in pain.
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The 47-year-old spent 1990 to 1996 enlisted in active duty in the Army without seeing combat. After his service, he returned to his primary occupation as a union Ironworker and was working atop a building structure on Sept. 11, 2001, when he learned of the terrorist attacks.
"Within a week, I had contacted a recruiter," he said. "I wanted to get back into uniform. Americans love some good payback, you know."
Smith re-enlisted and by April 2003 was in Iraq as an Army National Guard Infantryman assigned to the 720th Transportation Unit based out of Las Vegas, New Mexico. As a platoon sergeant he was in charge of 28 soldiers whose job was to facilitate safe passage of the Army's tractor-trailers from one Logistics Support Airbase to another. These missions were typically an epic 14-hour journey constituting 412 miles each way through heavily occupied enemy territory. He made 400 such trips, all of which were inherently life-threatening.
"I survived close proximity of three IED (improvised explosive device) blasts," he said. Survivors, he said, always gave thanks for their lives, but they never had time to process what was happening. Instead, they had to focus on getting right back into the fight to accomplish the mission. "You literally have to shut down your emotions about those around you getting injured, maimed, or killed," he said. "Or else you could lose even more lives and put others in jeopardy."
Mr. Smith's physical injuries came from a road accident when a semi-tractor trailer in his convoy rear-ended his Humvee during a firefight. The impact caused his Humvee to hit a concrete underpass, injuring his back.
Mr. Smith was returned to duty but later, in June 2004, was medically evacuated because of the back injuries and severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He received an Army medical discharge in November 2004, effectively ending his career. He received the Bronze Star with Valor.
Since returning home, Mr. Smith has been living with his injuries and trying to return to a sense of normalcy in his life. Sometimes his legs give out and he's unable to work.
He recently purchased a manufactured home for himself and his family. He has three children from a previous marriage, and four stepchildren with his wife, Jesusita.
Because he has been unable to work, Mr. Smith needed help making some modifications to his home. That's where a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) and Kirtland Federal Credit Union (Kirtland FCU) came in handy.
The Housing Assistance for Veterans (HAVEN) program is a unique grant program that targets veterans and active duty service members who have been disabled in the line of duty since September 11, 2001. It provides grants up to $7,500 to support necessary home modifications. FHLB Dallas made $250,000 in HAVEN funds available through its members, like Kirtland FCU.
Through the $7,500 HAVEN grant and an additional $350 contribution from Kirtland FCU, Mr. Smith was able to have his home skirted to keep the cold air from entering the home, have a wood-burning stove installed, and add a deck due to the home's raised elevation and the mobility challenges that caused.
The modifications to his home, including the skirting and wood-burning stove were completed in early January and have been instrumental in keeping the family warm. Chacon, New Mexico, is 8,100 feet above sea level, near Taos, New Mexico, and is nicknamed "Little Alaska" because of its cold temperatures and heavy snowfall.
The work completed by the HAVEN grant dramatically improved the family's comfort and helped alleviate financial pressures, Mr. Smith said.
"I'm on a tight monthly budget," he said. "My family and I were able to heat our home much more efficiently and improve the quality of our lives instantly with the HAVEN grant. We would have paid a lot more for propane gas, which would have increased our utility bill demonstrably. And having a deck was just a wonderful addition because it makes life so much easier."
Kirtland FCU has been a HAVEN supporter since the grant program began. To date, four HAVEN grants have been issued through Kirtland FCU.
"We are so thankful for the HAVEN program," said Chuck Crisler, assistant vice president of public relations at Kirtland FCU. "These improvements are keeping a wonderful family warm. It was such a pleasure working with the Smiths to help facilitate the HAVEN modifications, and we are thankful for the sacrifices that Mr. Smith and his family have made in service to our country. We are thrilled to partner with FHLB Dallas in saying thank you to this family via the HAVEN program."
HAVEN was established by FHLB Dallas' Board of Directors in 2011 as a humble token of appreciation to the servicemen and women who put their lives on the line each day.
About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 12 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $30.2 billion as of December 31, 2013, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 900 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. For more information, visit the FHLB Dallas website at fhlb.com.
The photo is also available via AP PhotoExpress.
CONTACT: Corporate Communications Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas www.fhlb.com (214) 441-8445
Source:Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas