Marine Cpl. Kevin Dubois was in Afghanistan, clearing a helicopter landing area for a medical evacuation on July 31, 2011. He went prone to "get a better shooting position," he said, and with a single movement of his leg onto the pressure plate of a buried improved explosive device, his life changed forever.
Today he uses a wheelchair, both legs amputated from his hip down. In the two-story Rhode Island home where he lives today, getting around the house is a challenge — impossible, sometimes, without the help of his wife.
But with the help of Homes for Our Troops, that is expected to change later this year. The Massachusetts-based non-profit organization plans to build Dubois a new home designed for his specific disability.
All money raised by the Run for the Troops 5K race and dinner in Andover is targeted to help Homes for Our Troops bring Dubois closer toward a level of independence he has lacked for the last two years.
"The Homes for Our Troops organization wants to make him as independent as possible, so everything in that house is designed to maximize his potential for independence," race and dinner co-organizer Bill Pennington of Andover said.
In a video for Homes for Our Troops, Dubois said most New England homes "are all two stories, so you'd have to get piggy-back rides up to the second floor. Most of the time, the bedrooms and bathrooms are on the second floor."
"Transferring into the shower is obviously dangerous," he said. "I can't catch myself when I fall... I can, but I risk breaking my arm, and my arms, right now, are all I have got left."
It isn't just hard for him, however. As Dubois meets the challenge of trying to live independently, his wife Kayla must take a difficult step back.
"You see him struggling, and you want to do whatever you can to help him," she said in the video. "He'll flip backwards because he doesn't have the weight in front of his wheelchair to get up a hill. You just want to push, and he wants to do it himself. It's hard to watch him struggle."
Pennington has been behind previous races in Andover to benefit Homes for Our Troops. This past January, he was on-hand for the key ceremony opening the doors of a home for Marine Sgt. Josh Bouchard, who was the beneficiary of last year's Andover race and dinner.
"It's extremely powerful," Pennington said. "The special little things are [things like] the washer and dryer. He can just reach in from his wheelchair and do his laundry. He can go right up to the sink — everything is lower for him."
When he receives his own HFOT home, Kevin Dubois said he "can cook. I can do dishes. I can do laundry, help around the house. It's going to be great to be able to have a little bit of independence again."
Beyond that, he said he's looking forward to "the start of our new family. We don't have kids yet, and there's plenty of room in that house to grow."