Soldiers come to widow's aid

Friends, family and military units repair crumbling mobile home

benw@ledger-enquirer.comJune 28, 2013 

Just before noon Thursday, Judith Hammack couldn't believe her eyes after the president of the Warrior Outreach Inc. led her inside a renovated mobile home in Fortson, Ga.

"I'm just overwhelmed with all of it," Hammack said after sitting on a new sofa. "It's wonderful. It made my home so much better for me."

Hammack, 68, returned to her 12 foot-by-65 foot mobile home after Sam Rhodes Sr., president of Warrior Outreach, members of the 3rd Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, friends and other military units spent the last six weeks repairing floors and every room in the crumbling mobile home on McCrary Road.

Rhodes started searching for donations and volunteers after he learned the mobile home needed work. It's located less than a mile from the Warrior Outreach site where wounded warriors and their families can ride horses to cope with military life.

Since starting the outreach in 2008, Rhodes said he wanted to expand and do more this year. "This year, we started to do home repairs," said Rhodes, a retired Army command sergeant major who serves as an adviser to House of Heroes, a nonprofit group that helps repair homes of military and police veterans.

Hammack's husband, William Hammack, died almost three years ago. A Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the Army National Guard during the 1960s. The couple moved into the mobile home in 1984 and, as it has aged, more repairs have been needed.

Rhodes said he found the home with windows leaking, paneling off the walls, cabinets literally falling off the wall in the kitchen and the gas stove not working.

"She was washing herself kind of like we did in Iraq," Rhodes said. "Her bathroom was just terrible."

With ties to House of Heroes, Rhodes said he would have waited to let the organization fix the home, but he decided against it. "I said, 'I can't wait,'" he said.

About 50 soldiers spent most of Thursday putting the finishing touches on the home and working at the nearby barn and farmhouse.

Lt. Shaun Carrol and about 20 volunteers of the 3rd Brigade replaced the trim around the bottom of the mobile home.

"We have a sergeant in the process of getting out and this is one of the things he chose to do," Carrol said. "We found this place and they needed a lot of work done."

Sgt. 1st Class Reginald Hart of the 192nd Infantry Brigade was there filling in for his first sergeant, who couldn't make it.

"I know my first sergeant and if he came out, it's worth it," Hart said. "This is pretty nice. It's a worthwhile experience. I might even get my family out here to experience it for themselves."

Hammack stayed with her childhood friend, Sharon Watson, while the work was under way, but Watson never told her that she too volunteered to work on the home. "I worked two straight weeks getting all the painting done," she said.

Watson describes the renovation as God's work and hopes everyone involved is blessed.

"You don't know how much it means to me and my family to be able to do this for somebody," Watson said. "She is going to be thrilled when she sees this. I have kept everything a secret."

If her husband were still alive, Hammack said, he would be very grateful and proud of the work on the home.

"I thought it would happen," she said. "I just couldn't wait for it. I'm like a little child at Christmas waiting for it. It really happened."

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