Beyond Party Lines, CUNA and Leagues Join in Building Vet Homes
DENVER -- Joining with the Colorado and Minnesota leagues, CUNA last week announced a high- profile "support the troops" project to help build two $150,000 homes for wounded Iraqi war vets in a linkup with the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this summer.
The humanitarian venture, detailed in press briefings here and in St. Paul, was coordinated by a Taunton, Mass. group aiding war veterans with the help of the Republican and Democratic National Committees. It is also expected to draw interested volunteers from a broad cross section of labor and business as well as well as credit unions.
CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica said the league partnership, which also includes the non-profit Homes for Our Troops group plus National Journal magazine, represents a "worthy cause that is truly helping to bring our country together."
"This project is unique in that both national political parties felt it was important enough to participate in both host cities for their conventions," said Mica.
Also joining in building the two homes, adapted for the wounded soldiers and construction slated to start later this spring, are AFL-CIO labor federations in both Denver and the Twin Cities, the Credit Union Association of Colorado/Wyoming, and the Minnesota Credit Union Network.
The two disabled vets who will receiving the homes during this year's national Democratic and Republican conventions in Denver and Minneapolis are Army Sergeant Travis Strong--a Colorado native at a rehab center in San Diego who lost both legs in Iraq in 2006, and Sargent Marcus Kuboy of Robbinsdale, Minn.--who was wounded in Fallujah in March 2007.
Each of the homes will be outfitted for the special needs of Strong and Kuboy and will be presented to the new owners during the respective conventions. The Democrats convene here Aug. 25-28 and the Republicans Sept. 1-4 in Minneapolis.
In the intervening months, officials of CUNA and both leagues said they'll be lining up CEOs, CU staffers, and volunteers to help with fundraising arrangement and to take part in the building process.
In Denver, the Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, as well as other building trades, will be soliciting labor and materials to build Strong's home to go up probably in Golden, a Denver suburb. Negotiations were underway last week to secure land for Strong's home.
John Dill, president/CEO of CUAC, said CUs in Colorado and Wyoming are delighted to participate in the project, which he likened to what CUs did less than three years ago during Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
"Here we have an example of a coming together of the public and members of the credit union community joining in a cause where we can do so much good to those people who are sacrificing for us on a daily basis," said Dill.
He said CU executives would not be expected to do any of the "heavy lifting" in actually building the homes but will help in many other ways to ensure the vets are taken care of.
Identifying the needy vets and helping acquire the properties has been the job of the Massachusetts-based Homes for Our Troops, which has already put up 20 such homes with 22 more on the drawing boards.
"We are pleased to have this opportunity to work with Homes for Our Troops to provide this tangible 'leave behind' for our community, state, region and most importantly, for a very deserving serviceman after the convention is over," said Dill.
Colorado/Wyoming CUs, he said, will get a chance to participate in the groundbreaking ceremonies as well as other "touchstone" events to be held over the spring and summer months.
In Minnesota, Mark D. Cummins, president/CEO of Minnesota Credit Union Network, said he, too, was gratified that CUs could participate in a project "of this magnitude, contributing time and money to honor a Minnesota soldier who fought for our freedom."
MCUN said CUs in the state would be teaming up with Homes for Our Troops and the Committee on Arrangements for the 2008 Republican National Convention for the initiative.
MCUN noted that Kuboy, whose home will be in St. Paul, had served three years active duty for the Minnesota National Guard, sustaining his injuries while patrolling the outskirts of Fallujah when the truck he was riding in ran over an improvised explosive device, sending the vehicle airborne and ejecting Kuboy. The explosion severely injured his legs, causing fractures in his back, left arm and jaw. In his initial nine months of recovery, Kuboy endured eight surgeries.
CUNA and MCUN noted that Homes for Our Troops, founded in 2004, is a non-partisan organization committed to assisting severely injured and disabled servicemen and women and their immediate families. The organization works with local contractors to build the new handicap-accessible homes, often for multiple amputees and individuals with spinal cord injuries.
At CUAC, individuals and organizations interested in making a donation or participating in the project should contact Chris Kemm, Grassroots Advocacy manager at (720) 479-3345 or (800) 477-1697 extension 3345 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fundraising contributions in Minnesota are being accepted through the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation (www.mncufoundation.org). Individuals and organizations interested in participating should contact Mara Humphrey of MCUN.