By Neil Fater
---- — Injured serviceman Josh Bouchard has moved into the home that was built for him in part by money raised by participants in the 2012 Run for the Troops road race through downtown Andover.
Marine Sgt. Bouchard’s leg was severed and his back broken in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was riding in drove over an improvised explosive device.
More than 1,500 people entered a five-kilometer Andover race last April to raise money so that the Massachusetts veteran would be able to enter a specially adapted home. The home has counter tops, light switches, thermostats and other necessities built at the proper height for someone in a wheelchair. It was built through the national organization Homes for Our Troops.
Andover race organizer Bill Pennington attended the recent ceremony in Granby, Mass., where Bouchard was given the keys and the free home was turned over to him.
“One of my dad’s traditions was to raise the flag every single day. One of the emotional things was when Josh pulled down the Homes for Our troops flag, symbolizing the end of construction, and put up the American flag [outside his home],” said Pennington.
Pennington said there were about 300 friends, relatives and volunteers at the key ceremony. There were signs indicating that the Andover Run for the Troops race helped build the home. Much of the expense of materials and labor was donated by local contracters, he said.
“You could just sense from being there that everyone wanted to be there. No one was complaining that it was too cold, too snowy, too this. Everyone was overjoyed to be a part of it,” said Pennington. “It’s a small community. There were a lot of people from the town there.”
The 2013 Run for the Troops in Andover is planned for April 7 at 9 a.m. There is also an exercise event called the Troop Challenge set for tomorrow, Friday, at Yang’s Fitness Center at 5 Dundee Park Drive. Both events will raise money toward a home for Marine Corporal Kevin Dubois of Rhode Island, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan on July 31, 2011, according to Homes for Our Troops.
While it is not yet known if Josh Bouchard will be able to attend the 2013 Run for the Troops, his parents will be there, as will Joe Smith, who was previously given a home and has been at each Andover race since.
Bouchard spoke briefly at his key ceremony in Granby on Jan. 12.
“He said, ‘The most important thing to me is we continue to provide and build houses for others,’” according to Pennington. “That’s what they always emphasize: let’s not forget that there are others. That’s why Joe Smith comes up for the Andover race.”