- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2015

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - The community of Mitchell is working to improve the home of a 28-year-old Iraq War veteran who may have to start using a wheelchair because of injuries he sustained during his service.

Jerry Stravia, who retired from the Army in 2007 for medical reasons, has spent time in and out of hospitals for brain trauma, herniated discs, nerve damage, hearing problems and vertigo, The Daily Republic (https://bit.ly/1JdOxlB ) reported. He suffered a brain injury after his armored vehicle was hit by an explosive device.

More than a dozen people, including Stravia’s relatives, friends and builders, have volunteered to help construct an addition on his home. With his neighbor-turned-friend Stacy Nettinga at the helm, the team plans to build several rooms at his residence on one level for easy wheelchair access.

“I think that our vets should be treated with the utmost respect, especially those that have gotten wounded, so if there’s something I can do to help, then absolutely I will,” said Nettinga, who served in the Air Force.

Nettinga works full time as a project manager with a local contracting company, and Stravia is a full-time student at Dakota Wesleyan University, so they’ve only been able to work on the house a few hours each day. But Nettinga hopes to have the addition weathertight by November to then begin working on the interior.

“It’ll be a long process, but it’ll be worth it,” Nettinga said.

Other experienced volunteers, including a plumber, electrician and heating and cooling specialist, have offered to provide their services for free.

Although the future of Stravia’s health is uncertain, the overwhelming support he’s received has been therapeutic.

“That is what keeps me going, that I can tell my kids that a friend and I did this with the help of the community,” he said.

___

Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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