Specially adapted, fully customized home to be built for injured soldier

FALLBROOK — When former Army Specialist Joseph Paulk, Jr. joined the Army in 2004 he wanted to serve his community and create a better future for himself.

While Joey understood and accepted the danger he faced while serving his first tour in Southern Afghanistan with the 546th Military Police Company, he never imagined how much his life would change in a single instant on a July day in 2007.

On that fateful day, Joey was involved in a rescue mission as the lead driver of a Quick Reaction Force when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, or IED. As the lead driver of the convoy, his vehicle took the full brunt of the explosion, which sent his vehicle soaring into the air.

The tremendous blast caused Joey to be ejected as the vehicle flipped over, and his body became engulfed in flames. His fellow soldiers managed to extinguish the fire, but despite the quick, life-saving actions of his “battle buddies,” he was severely burned and injured in the blast.

After waiting for an hour to be medically evacuated, the critically injured soldier was transported to the nearest U.S. facilities in Afghanistan, where doctors put him into a medically induced coma.

He woke up more than three weeks later at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where he learned from doctors that his extensive burns covered more than 80 percent of his body. He has since undergone more than 50 surgeries, including skin grafts and the removal of all his fingers. He also underwent extensive plastic surgery on his face and endured more than 18 months of grueling physical therapy.

After being severely injured in an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan, Joseph Paulk Jr. endured more than 50 surgeries and 18 months of physical therapy.

Now medically retired, Joey continues his recovery process, while trying to build a new life for himself and reclaim some of his past life and enjoy the activities he used to.

Despite the many daily challenges Joey now faces, he grew up playing baseball, has always considered himself an athlete, and still loves sports. Although his limitations in sports have been one of the hardest things for him to accept and overcome since his injury, he still finds ways to stay involved, such as coaching and running the bases for his baseball team.

However, because of the extensive burns that cover most of his body, Joey is extremely sensitive to high and low temperatures – as well as sunlight – and one of his biggest struggles is maintaining a safe body temperature. Due to the loss of his fingers, the Veteran also has difficulty with everyday tasks such as opening doors.

Homes For Our Troops
“Building homes and rebuilding lives since 2004”

Recognizing Joey’s specific needs, Homes For Our Troops – a national, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization – is about to begin the process of building a specially adapted, fully customized home for him. Plans call for the home to be built specifically around his individual needs, with many unique features – such as automatic opening and closing doors – which will help alleviate his challenge with doors.

With contributions raised from donors, supporters, and corporate partners, as well as community events and fundraisers, the non-profit organizes and oversees the building of each home they then donate to severely injured, post-9/11 Veterans. 

Many recipients of these homes have sustained life-altering injuries including multiple limb amputations, partial or full paralysis, and/or severe traumatic brain injury. 

Homes For Our Troops has given away more than 270 specially adapted, fully customized homes to severely injured Veterans.

Since the organization’s inception in 2004, Homes For Our Troops has built over 270 homes which were then donated to Veterans. After the donation of each home, the non-profit continues its relationship with the Veterans, assisting them with adjusting to the changes, and overcoming the difficult challenges, in their lives.

“These homes restore some of the freedom and independence our Veterans sacrificed while defending our country, and enable them to focus on their family, recovery, and rebuilding their lives,” Homes For Our Troops Director of Marketing, Kristi Galanek told RCNS.

As for Joey’s future home, in addition to automatic doors, strong insulation, and advanced climate controls, the home being built for him will feature more than 40 major special adaptations, such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower, and kitchen amenities that include pull-down shelving and lowered countertops,” Galanek explained.

“The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home,” Galanek continued. “Including navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds, or reaching for cabinets that are too high.”

Community invited to special event to “meet Joey.”

Joey recently said he is grateful to all those who already have been supporting his cause as well as those who will be participating with the building of his home. He is also looking forward to meeting many of them at an upcoming “Community Kickoff” event intended to introduce him to the community and signify the start of the build process.

“I greatly appreciate what Homes For Our Troops and its supporters are doing for me and other military Veterans,” Joey said, as the date for the kickoff event neared. “By helping them have homes that are adapted to their needs the organization is allowing them to live more comfortably and independently.”

Joey recently said he is excited to meet the community at an upcoming “Community Kickoff” event.

Joey, who has always wanted to own a community business such as a micro-craft brewery tap house with his friends, says Home For Our Troops has “given him back hope” and enabled the possibility of “making that dream become a reality.” No longer having to worry about a mortgage, Joey now hopes the money he is able to save from his new, mortgage-free home can instead be put toward his future business goals.

The kickoff event is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 27. The event will be held at 10 a.m., VFW Post 1924 in Fallbrook, at 1175 Old Stage Rd. Check in begins at 9:30 a.m., and the public is invited to attend.

For more information about Homes Four Our Troops and how to get involved or make a donation, visit www.hfotusa.org. To read more about Joey’s incredible story, visit www.hfotusa.org/paulk

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.