Spc. Andrew Birzer spent many of the past 17 years deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan with the 194th Field Artillery of Fort Dodge, Iowa. After multiple injuries put an end to his combat days, Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) Iowa Chapter
, along with 29 ABC member companies, decided to help the local hero and his family.
Mike McCoy, president of ABC member company ACI Mechanical
, Ames, Iowa, turned to Operation First Response (OFR) for guidance. OFR, which helps wounded soldiers and their families deal with personal and financial issues, identified possible candidates and determined Birzer and his family would benefit from ABC’s help.
Birzer sustained his first injury four years ago when a roadside bomb exploded in Afghanistan. Ignoring the pain and headaches, he began another tour—this time in Iraq.
Upon returning home from Iraq, Birzer was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury and a knee injury.
While recovering at Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood in August 2008, members of ABC’s Iowa Chapter spent one week completely transforming Birzer’s home, where he lives with his wife, Samantha, and their three children.
"Before being deployed, he and his wife bought a home with the intent to fix it up," says Reid Den Herder, membership director of ABC’s Iowa Chapter. "Because of the brain injury, he could no longer do the work himself."
The list of tasks to complete included replacing the electrical system; installing new floors, windows, doors, and a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system; and remodeling a bathroom. Crews also placed new insulation in the garage, renovated the kitchen and landscaped the yard.
The repairs totaled $70,000, with ABC’s Iowa Chapter covering all of the costs.
"We began organizing the project six to seven months before we began work on the house," Den Herder says. "We visited the house first and walked through to find out what truly needed to be done. We put a list together and started soliciting the membership for materials and labor for the project. The contractors started talking to their suppliers. The more they got the word out, the more support we received."
With the renovations complete, the Birzers can focus on being a family again instead of worrying about the burden of upkeep on the house.
"The members of ABC’s Iowa Chapter are very patriotic," Den Herder says. "This was a way that we felt we could really give back to those folks who have already given so much for us."