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Sweat therapy: WTB partners with Habitat for Humanity

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The sweat glistened on Staff Sgt. Sean Stevenson's forehead and ran down his cheeks as he drove a digging pole deep into the rocky soil.

"This community has given a lot to us," he said as he caught his breath.  "Now, we are giving back."

For the fourth year in a row, Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) joined forces with Habitat for Humanity volunteers to build homes for the less fortunate.

Habitat's mission statement is "Seeking to put God's love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope."

Homes are built using volunteer labor and sold at no profit.

The notion of volunteer service defines the Wounded Warriors assigned to the WTB. "This is great stuff," Command Sgt. Maj. Sans Gilmore said as he oversaw the work of 20 Soldiers on 13 houses for three days last week in a South Tacoma neighborhood.

"This area is the kind of place where young men and women volunteer to serve in the Army, and now we're here to give something back."

The WTB is one of 29 Warrior Transition Units created throughout the Army since 2007.

The units provide medical care, advocacy and leadership to ill and injured Soldiers (and their families) while they transition back to regular duty or civilian life.

At the center of JBLM's WTB is a comprehensive transition plan that outlines a specific recovery plan for each Soldier that incorporates his or her physical, emotional, career, family, social and spiritual goals.

"This experience is helpful for healing and transitioning these Soldiers," Lt. Col. Jason Wing, WTB commander, explained. 

"There is a therapy to painting, sanding or digging a hole.  It is good to get out of the clinical setting."

The hard work - no, the sweat labor - involved in building a home explained the pride in Maureen Fife's voice.

"We are humbled and honored to be working with these Soldiers," said Fife, CEO of the Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity.

She paused for a moment as she watched a group of Soldiers mix cement, dig fence postholes and cut wood fence posts.

"These men and women get so much done," she said. "They move projects along; there is no job that is too hard for them to do."

Sue Potter, the director of development and community for Habitat for Humanity, smiled at Fife's comment.

"She's right," Potter said. "I look forward to this event every year. These Soldiers are wonderful."

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