'Designed to restore freedom': Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan gets keys to new home
JUPITER — As dozens of supporters waving American flags stood in his driveway, Justin Callahan walked into his new house for the first time with his wife Katie and their three children Saturday morning.
Callahan, a veteran who lost his leg while in Afghanistan, was welcomed to his new home by friends and members of the nonprofit that helped him build the one-story Jupiter Farms home. Callahan uses a prosthetic leg and has been trying to use a wheelchair more often a the recommendation from his doctor — something the new house will make possible.
The house was built with more than 40 special adaptations "designed to restore freedom and independence" to Callahan.
"The roll-in shower is going to be the number one thing," Callahan said. "I've been showering in a little walk-in shower for forever now. Getting in and out of the shower is a huge burden, I've slipped several times just getting out of the shower."
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The house also features lowered countertops, wider doorways and closets and a cement-paved path perimeter for Callahan.
The house is being provided mortgage-free through Homes For Our Troops, a publicly funded nonprofit that builds and donates specially adapted homes to severely injured post-9/11 veterans.
Callahan, at the encouragement of his wife, Katie, applied for the home four years ago and was approved after undergoing a lengthy interview process. The property was bought in 2018, but the start of construction was delayed by home building projects for other veterans as well as by the coronavirus pandemic.
"I didn't feel like I deserved it," Callahan said, recalling a discussion with his wife before starting the application process. "That kind of stuff doesn't happen to people like me."
Since its inception in 2004, Massachusetts-based Homes For Our Troops has built specially adapted homes for more than 300 veterans across the nation.
Callahan said he and Katie selected the Jupiter Farms site because of its remote and serene location. A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Callahan served in the Army for four years, enlisting at the age of 18 in 2000 after a semester of community college.
“I just felt like I wanted to do a little bit more than go to school at that time and wanted to serve the country and be part of the military, so I decided to enlist,” he told The Post in 2021. He served in Korea before deploying to Afghanistan in 2003 as a combat engineer.
On Jan. 15, 2004, he was conducting clearance operations outside Bagram Airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated.
“I remember I was walking about 10 feet behind a Humvee in the tire tracks in a route that had already been cleared,” he said. “The next thing I was tossed in the air — they say about 20 feet. I just remember a bunch of dirt falling on top of me. My body went into shock."
Callahan’s left leg was amputated. He underwent several surgeries and months of physical therapy at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., before receiving a medical discharge in May 2004.
After leaving the military, Callahan spent time working for nonprofits helping other veterans blend back into society. He and Katie married in 2015 and Callahan continued his education at Florida Atlantic University, where he earned a master's degree in social work.
He currently is a social worker at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. Callahan said there are days where it is difficult for him to walk on his prosthetic limb, and the new home will give him more freedom.
"This is going to take such a big burden off my back, my family's back," Callahan said. "We'll be able to relax more freely now and I'll be able to help out more around the house because I'm not stressing out my body"
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan gets accessible Jupiter Farms home