PARKER, Colo. – Retired Army Cpl. Nick Orchowski protected our freedom, only to come home from Iraq eight years ago to a prison of his own body. He is a quadriplegic, but has battled back to regain function in his legs.
On Saturday, the national non-profit Home for Our Troops gave him and his family the gift of independence, and the chance to start a new life in a brand new, specially-adapted home in Parker.
Orchowski, 28, his wife, Jamie, 30, and their two kids walked up to their new house in the Elkhorn Ranch subdivision with a welcome wagon like no other. Their new community has showered them with appreciation for Orchowski’s service that left him severely injured.
Orchowski was thrown from a vehicle that was hit during an insurgent’s attack in Baghdad in May 2004.
He broke his cervical spine from C1 to C6, and shattered his elbow in 36 pieces. He said he has two titanium implants holding it all together. A tendon in his right leg was also ripped away during the attack.
"We live in the land of the free because we have the brave to support that," said Maj. Gen. Scott Schofield with the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base.
Homes for our Troops raised $200,000 in donations from builders, suppliers, area businesses, and schools to build the house for the Orchowskis. The home is worth nearly $400,000.
"Thank you for coming to help remember this moment when a hero becomes our neighbor," said Parker Mayor Mike Waid.
The couple and their friends toured the 3,000 square foot single-floor house.
“They’ve gone above and beyond,” Orchowski said as he walked through each room.
The home includes automatic doors, room for a wheelchair to maneuver under sinks and the kitchen island, and grab bars in the bathtub. Another device controls the temperature in the shower. Because of Nick's injury, he can’t feel hot or cold, and the device prevents him from getting burned.
Nick’s family said his back will eventually give out and he’ll have to return to a wheelchair.
"It's pretty much a barrier-free home. It gives me back my independence like I use to have," said Orchowski.
Orchowski’s best friend, Staff Sgt. Matthew Keil was also selected for a new home from the same organization in 2008. He presented the ceremonial key to the Orchowskis on Saturday.
"People that I didn't even know, that I’d never met, have taken an opportunity, taken time out of their lives to make my life better for me," said Keil.
Home for Our Troops has built 114 homes in 33 states, and it plans to complete two more specially-adapted homes in Colorado in December.