BROOKSVILLE - A veteran critically wounded in the war in Afghanistan, who applied for and received a customized home from Houston-based HelpingaHero.org Home Program, withdrew from the program about two weeks ago.
Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ken Patterson declined the offer via email one day before home builder, Pulte Homes in Tampa, was to begin construction on the home in the Trillium subdivision.
"Pulte Homes was just amazing, and they did everything they committed to, and we certainly did everything we committed to," said Meredith Iler, national chairman, founder and volunteer of HelpingaHero.org, "We certainly wish Mr. Patterson well, but he just changed his mind."
Patterson, who currently resides in Citrus County, could not be reached for comment.
Patterson lost much of his right leg, along with his left foot, four years ago in the war in Afghanistan while aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, which came under heavy fire by Taliban forces.
"Looking back on it, if I had known I would have missed (the Army) this much, I would have stayed, because they could have put me in a special unit," Patterson said back in July. "As long as I find some land to ride my four-wheeler on, I'll be all right."
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the project back in mid-July with several community stakeholders attending, including county commissioners, Brooksville mayor Lara Bradburn, U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent and U.S. Sen. Wilton Simpson. The four-bedroom, 2,600-square-foot home with 2.5 baths and full wheelchair accessibility, was 400-square-feet larger than any home in Trillium. The home was expected to be complete by Thanksgiving.
Iler said Pulte Homes made an exception for the house, and the nonprofit organization was unable to locate a veteran in the area with the types of injuries accommodated in the floor plans.
"The original plan was to build him a home in San Antonio and when he switched states, we had to start over," Iler said. "We certainly wish him well and hope he's able to find what he needs that's a better fit for him."
"Had we had another applicant in the area we would have moved forward," she added.
Iler said there's been six groundbreakings in Florida since Patterson's for severely wounded veterans, and another project is in the works in West Palm Beach.
The average cost of homes built are $250,000, $100,000 of which is community donations. The developer and builder each donate $50,000 for the lot, and the wounded veteran pays the remaining $50,000 mortgage, according to the organization's website.
Applications for 2014 homes are available at HelpingaHero.org.