HARMON – Five American flags stood on a plot of land in Harmon Saturday afternoon, marking the spot where a home will be built for Michael Shoemaker and his family.
Shoemaker, 26, is a U.S. Army veteran who was injured in Afghanistan in 2012. He and his wife, Brittany, 26, have four children: Michael, 7, Braden, 5, Hannah, 3, and Harper, 3 months.
The Abiding Word Church in Sterling will build the home for the Shoemakers, said the Rev. Scott Porter, as part of the church’s disaster relief ministry, which has sent church members to Missouri, Oklahoma and Washington, Illinois in the wake of devastating tornadoes.
The church was planning on using the money for the Shoemakers’ home to build a home for a family in Joplin, Missouri, Porter said.
“That kind of fell through. We were disappointed,” he said. “We kind of shifted gears and thought, Why not help someone here?”
About 18 months ago, after the plans to build the Joplin home were abandoned, Evan Moore, a church member, was driving on state Route 2 by Veterans Memorial Park in Dixon while Charlie Thomas, of the Dixon VFW Post, and some others were doing some work at the park.
Moore stopped and asked if Thomas knew of any local veterans the church could build a home for.
He did. And it was Michael Shoemaker.
“I was really shocked,” Shoemaker said. “There are a lot of programs that build houses for soldiers. I’ve tried signing up for more than a dozen of them. There’s so much red tape to go through.
“They’re so hard to sign up for, and nine out of 10 of them want you to have a Purple Heart. I don’t have a Purple Heart, because [my injury] was considered an accident.”
While serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2012, Shoemaker was injured when he and several other soldiers were moving ammunition at a ammunition supply depot.
The ammunition exploded, killing 20-year-old David Taylor of Dixon, Kentucky, and injuring six others, including Shoemaker.
His right arm and both legs were injured, and doctors had to remove metal debris from his head. Shoemaker underwent a cranioplasty – an operation involving the skull – and several months of rehabilitation.
Shoemaker’s 3-month-old daughter, Harper, was given Taylor as middle name, Shoemaker said, to honor his friend that was killed.
The home will be about 2,100 square feet, Moore said, and have three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms.
Shoemaker paid for the land and the foundation, he said, and even sold his truck to do so.
The church and its congregation will begin work on the home soon and hope to finish before the weather gets too hot.
There are church members with carpentry and construction backgrounds who have volunteered to help, Porter said, and just recently a someone came forward to provide electrical fixtures and lightbulbs for free, and others have volunteered to do all the painting.
“People are just coming out of the woodwork,” Porter said.
To volunteer to build the home or to donate furniture or other supplies, call Abiding Word Church at 815-626-1827.