Painting a community

WTB and Habitat for Humanity partner up

By J.M. Simpson on August 15, 2013

Staff Sgt. Mark Mina dipped his brush into a red paint bucket and began to apply even strokes to the side of a newly constructed house.

"Being here is a great opportunity for us to get out and help out," said the soldier assigned to Alpha Company, Warrior Transition Battalion.

"Doing this is on my bucket list - I mean my paint bucket list," Mina added with a laugh.

Why not make helping others an entry on one's Bucket List?

For the fifth year in a row, soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help in the construction of homes for low-income, hard-working Pierce County families.

Staff Sgt. AJ Domme, A Company, Warrior Transition Battalion, washes a brush while working on one of six homes built by Habitat for Humanity in the Lakewood community of Tillicum. /J.M. Simpson

Habitat for Humanity's home ownership program compliments the housing services provided to veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies.

"With thousands of soldiers returning to Joint Base Lewis-McChord from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Maureen Fife, CEO of Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity, wrote in a press release, "there is a tremendous need for veteran housing in our community."

The WTB is one of 29 Warrior Transition Units created by the Army since 2007 to provide medical care, advocacy and leadership for soldiers and their families transitioning back to regular duty and civilian life.

Part of that transition involves volunteering to help others.

"This is good therapy," Staff Sgt. Ervin Figuero said as he climbed a ladder and began to paint.

"It is good to volunteer, to help in the community; it is good therapy too."

Staff Sgt. Jacqui Vooge, Alpha Company, Warrior Transition Battalion, agreed as she rinsed off a brush.

"It's good for the community and for us to be able to work like this," she said.

The soldiers worked for three days this week to help build and paint six housing units.

"When this project is finished, there will be a total of 30 units in Tillicum," Sue Potter, director of development & communication for Habitat.

She added that the City of Lakewood worked well with Habitat for Humanity in continuing the revitalization of Tillicum.

As the soldiers continued to work in Tuesday afternoon's hot weather, Mike Stephens, a civilian construction manager with Habitat, could only marvel at their energy, discipline and dedication.

"Working with these soldiers is just awesome," he said as he rinsed off a paintbrush.

"Soldiers are some of our better help; they instantly get on a project and don't stop until its finished."