Last year, some neighbors in an Illinois city launched a hurtful petition to stop the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home that was being built for a two-time Bronze Star recipient who had served two tours in Afghanistan. Now, less than a year later, this veteran and his family are finally moving into their completed home.
U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Wood, who is an active member of the National Guard, and his wife will be moving into their new Peoria, Illinois, home in the Morton neighborhood later this month after its blessing ceremony next Friday. But the process to build this first "Homes for Heroes" was met with controversy when the family found out a few locals were raising a fuss about the initial plan for the home's exterior.
Sgt. Brian Wood, his wife, Julie, and their two children at the groundbreaking for their new home in April. (Image source: Habitat for Humanity Greater Peoria Illinois/Facebook)
“It almost makes you feel you’re not welcome,” Wood told the Peoria Journal Star at the time when he heard some were launching a petition against a wood exterior because the other homes in the neighborhood are brick.
Lea Anne Schmidgall, executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, said at the time they would look into the possibility of a brick exterior.
It is unclear if a neighborhood rule mandated that the home be clad in brick or how exactly this issue was resolved, but the finished product does have a brick exterior.
Wood told TheBlaze Friday afternoon that from what he understands of the situation, it was a miscommunication and a few people not knowing exactly what Habitat for Humanity was all about.
"As for us, we could have cared less if we had brick or not. We were just grateful to have a house," he said, explaining how he, his wife and their three children had been renting a two-bedroom apartment for the last three years as they worked to save money for their own home. He added that the neighbors they've met in the year since a plot was selected have been very welcoming and supportive.
"It's been a long, long journey," Brian Wood told TheBlaze of the process that started back in 2012. "We’re excited and very happy and grateful. We're ready to begin our next chapter of our lives."
During his second and last tour in Afghanistan, Wood and his squad were ambushed by 60 members of the Taliban. After seven hours of fighting, his squad ran out of ammunition and, according to Habitat's writeup on Wood, he then successfully directed air support from his radio. While on tour, Wood was injured and as a result of these injuries will not be deployed again, though he remains an active member of the National Guard.
“It’s a tremendous honor for me to sponsor the Veteran Build home for Sergeant Brian and Julie Wood," Congressman Aaron Schock said in a statement. "The Wood family is the embodiment of a generation who stood up in response to the attacks on September 11, 2001. Brian’s exemplary military service speaks for itself and includes two Bronze Stars. As a military spouse, Julie answered the call of duty alongside her husband serving as the unwavering foundation for their family and raising their three children while Brian was deployed. The Wood family has sacrificed immensely over the last decade in service to our country. This Habitat home is a small token from myself and a very grateful community for what the Wood family has done for all of us.”
The Woods will move into their new home, where each of their children will have their own room, after closing on September 15.
This story has been updated to include more information and clarification.