PEA RIDGE -- Army Sgt. Andrew Butterworth, his wife and their three children will move into a new house just outside Pea Ridge this summer -- thanks to an organization that builds custom homes and donates them to severely injured veterans.
A program announcing and celebrating the Homes for Troops project for the Butterworths was held Saturday at Pea Ridge City Hall.
On Nov. 15, 2004, Butterworth was on patrol in northern Iraq with C Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, when two rocket-propelled grenades struck his vehicle. He lost his right leg and suffered a traumatic brain injury in the blast.
The home being built will feature more than 40 major special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower and kitchen amenities that include pull-down shelving and lowered countertops. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, including navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds, or reaching for cabinets that are too high, according to Tom Landerwermeyer, retired brigadier general and president/CEO of Homes for Troops.
Landwermeyer said the specially adapted home will provide a place of respite for the Butterworths. He said 95% of the veterans who receive the new homes say their stress level is dramatically reduced.
"Building homes, rebuilding lives, is what we're all about," Landwermeyer said, explaining the homes are not going to fix the injuries, but provide a place of safety and accessibility. "They shouldn't have to fight for the challenges in their home."
Julia Butterworth was born missing a leg. She wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle and the two met through mutual friends in learning to ride adapted motorcycles.
One of the 400 homes built or under construction by Homes for Troops is in Pea Ridge.
"One of the most unique things is that our veterans choose where they want to live," Landwermeyer said. "The Butterworths asked to live here with you. They could have lived anywhere."
Andy Butterworth said, "We choose Pea Ridge. We love the Ozarks."
Butterworth, who's from a small town near Kansas City, said he grew up coming down to Roaring River State Park in Missouri to fish. His wife is from the Bolivar, Mo., area and has family nearby.
"We kept looking and we kept coming back to this same piece of land over and over again," Butterworth said. "I had to kind of convince Homes for Troops."
He said it was 5 acres and prices were high, as they have been in the area recently, but that the land was similar in price to two acres closer to Bentonville. Then, to seal the deal, the seller -- a Navy veteran -- told the Realtor to accept the bid from Homes for Troops and not even consider the other bid on the table because it "was going to a good cause."
Local builder Jeff Cato said subcontractors include Jerry's Plumbing, which is donating all the labor and materials not provided by corporate partners; Steve Browning with Browning Homestead, providing septic at a discounted price; and Pure Comfort Heating and Air, which is installing the electric and HVAC. They're practically neighbors.
"It's all done by local people," Cato said. He said he hopes to finish by early July.
"We wanted some land. We didn't want big city life," Julia Butterworth said. "I wanted to be close enough to a hospital and a grocery store that it wouldn't be more than half an hour. The location itself was great.
"We spent a couple of days in hotels just kind of getting a feel for the community. We really like the support for military families," she said. "It really shows us what kind of people they are -- hard working, good-natured."
"We are absolutely looking forward to this," Andrew Butterworth said, "because there are no barriers."
"Pea Ridge is just right for us! I love small town communities -- being around good patriots and good, God-fearing people," he said. "Maybe one day, I can being fully involved with schools, and everything else in the community and helping out anyway I can. I look forward to growing business and non profit and helping other veterans."
Guest speakers included Ron Shumate with the Elks Lodge No. 2144; Pea Ridge Mayor Nathan See; Arkansas Sen. Josh Bryant; U.S. Rep. Steve Womack; Marine Sgt. Dustin Johns, another recipient of a Homes for Troops house; and Landwermeyer.
Bentonville Junior ROTC members Maddox Le, freshman; William Enderby, junior; Stephen Murphy, junior; and Ryan Johnson, junior; and Commander Mike Davis, senior naval science instructor for Bentonville Schools Navy Junior ROTC, provided the Color Guard.