WOODBURY, Minn. -- Embodying the credit union motto of people helping people, for the second consecutive week CUNA presented a home to a wounded veteran.
Hours before the Republican National Convention began last Monday, CUNA President/ CEO Dan Mica presided over the transfer of house keys to Sgt. Marcus Kuboy, who suffered serious injuries while serving as an Army medic in Iraq. A similar event was held in Colorado at the Democratic National Convention the week before.
For both projects, CUNA worked with National Journal, local credit union leagues and an array of construction, plumbing and furniture companies to build the home, with special facilities to accommodate an injured veteran. Both homes had ramps, an elevator and wider doorways.
The Minnesota event was the culmination of four months of construction and many more of planning and fund raising.
"This is really kind of a special, amazing moment for me," Kuboy told some of those in attendance a few minutes before the ceremony in this suburb of St. Paul.
The house was the 31st coordinated by Homes for our Troops, a Boston-area-based nonprofit organization.
"It's not a left thing or a right thing, it's the right thing," said John Gonsalves, the group's founder and president. "We look for people to volunteer for the greatest volunteers America has."
About 45 Minnesota credit unions raised $130,000 for the project, and many members and employees volunteered their time during the building process. Credit unions from all over the country raised more than $350,000 for both homes.
But for one credit union executive, it was about more than just the money.
"Credit union employees and volunteers believe in follow through. I've found that in many organizations many people just put their name down. But credit union people are working people," said Nancy Hutchinson, the senior vice president of marketing and business development of Minnesota Power Employees Credit Union in Duluth.
During one of the volunteer days, Mark Cummins, the president/CEO of the Minnesota Credit Union Network, backfilled dirt in the yard along with Maria Cino, the President/CEO of the Republican National Convention.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) praised the volunteers and said the home was a token of appreciation for members of the military who are "the thin line between us and a lot of bad things."
Pawlenty, who had been on Sen. John McCain's short list of possible running mates, said projects like this are important because "if they are willing to give us their all, we have to be willing to give them our all back."
He presented Kuboy with a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol and several proclamations praising his service to the country.
The 30-year-old Minnesota native served three years active duty for the Minnesota National Guard. While patrolling the outskirts of Fallujah with his unit, his truck ran over an improvised explosive device, causing it to explode. His vehicle was airborne, and he was ejected. Kuboy broke 28 bones, mostly in his right leg, and walks with a cane. He did his rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and a veterans' hospital in Minneapolis.
In a brief interview with Credit Union Times, he said it sometimes hurts to walk after only a few steps, and he is thinking of getting his right leg amputated.
Kuboy mixed humor and serious reflection during his remarks.
"What a way to get a house. Go to Iraq, get blown up and come back and people build you a house," he said. "When I joined the Army, I didn't want to be a hero, I wanted to help people who are over there."
Kuboy plans to continue helping. He is studying for his R.N. degree at a Minneapolis-area community college.
The home presentation was one of the few events of the convention's first day that was not affected by the schedule changes that McCain ordered in the wake of Hurricane Gustav hitting the Gulf Coast (See related story, page 4).
The event was nonpartisan, though Mica, a former Democratic congressman from Florida, joked about being one of the few Democrats in town at the time of the GOP convention.
"I'm a former Democratic congressman, but my brother is a Republican congressman from Florida [John Mica]. But don't get us confused," he quipped.