hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

May 30, 2012

Editorial: Kudos to those fixing a veteran's home

It's always refreshing to read stories of people helping people.

And when the people getting the help they need are those who have served their country in wartime, so much the better.

The story of Kevin and Allison Lambert of Haverhill is particularly gratifying.

The couple had purchased a fixer-upper in Haverhill and hoped to turn it into their dream home. But injuries Kevin suffered while serving with the Army in Iraq made that dream next to impossible.

Lambert served in the Army from 2005 to 2008 and from August 2005 to December 2006 was deployed in Iraq as a machine gunner during Operation Iraqi Freedom. While on patrol near Mosul, Lambert fell from an armored vehicle.

At first, his injuries seemed like little more than sprains to his ankle and shoulder. But the pain persisted. After he returned to the United States, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital found fractures to his vertebrae and inflammation in his knees.

Lambert was left with chronic pain and weakness in his legs and now must use a cane for balance.

Lambert's injuries have made fixing up the family home difficult.

"I tried to do some work, but the physical stuff gets hard for me and we end up having to call in family to help," Lambert, who oversees veterans outreach programs for the state, told reporter Mike LaBella. (See story, page 1.)

Just as the Lamberts' home remodeling seemed to have stalled, they got a surprise call from Cheryl Jarzobski of Bradford, who is a department supervisor with the Methuen Home Depot. Jarzobski asked if they'd like their kitchen remodeled for free through a Home Depot program that helps veterans and their families in need.

The Home Depot Foundation has dedicated $30 million to improve the homes and lives of veterans through its "Celebration of Service" program.

Last fall, Jarzobski's store manager asked her to find a veteran whose home was in need of repairs. John Ratka, director of Veterans Northeast Outreach in Haverhill, put Jarzobski in touch with Kevin Lambert.

She presented her idea to her store manager, and soon the project was approved.

The project quickly expanded from a kitchen remodeling to improvements to the entire house.

"To have someone call you and ask if you'd like your house redone," Lambert told LaBella, "it's something that doesn't happen all the time."

Jarzobski served as the captain for the project, while Lauri Jackman of Haverhill, a specialty assistant manager of the Methuen Home Depot, reached out to local contractors. Home Depot provides the materials while the contractors and Home Depot volunteers do the work.

Kudos to Home Depot and the participating contractors for their generosity with their time and materials. We are particularly grateful for the help they provide to returning veterans who were injured while serving their country.

These veterans sacrificed their time with their families and careers to serve our nation in its hour of need. Their injuries have taken their ability to live out their lives as they had hoped and dreamed.

It's gratifying to see the community offer the help these veterans need to make some of their dreams come true.