Program helps Iraq war veterans

August 6, 2008 2:29:58 PM PDT
A group of teamsters is teaching the veterans how to adapt their military skills to civilian construction needs.

On March 15, 2007, 20-year-old Lance Corporal Ray Holzhauer was killed in Iraq. At his funeral, his mom Lori Fraher mentioned she needed her roof fixed. What she got was not only a new roof but new home to go with it beginning with the demolition of the old one.

"Repair was out of the question, it was so far gone. No codes would have been acceptable. Since then we've come to an agreement that we would remove the house completely, replace the house and with donations and donations of volunteer help we've come this far," said Ken Ballenger, Regional Council of Carpenters.

Apprentices from the Helmets to Hardhats Program became involved. The group consists of veterans of Iraq who are making the transition back to civilian life. Teamster Local 786 president Mike Yauger is the program's liaison.

"There's combat engineers, guys that drive bulldozers, guys that drive trucks, transport materials. ...The skills they learn in the military are convertible into gainful employment skills here in Chicago," said Yauger.

Construction trades are involved in the program - from carpenters to electrical workers to plumbers and pipe fitters to the teamsters.

The gold star mother who lost her only son is overwhelmed by the generosity.

"It's just hard to believe that somebody wants to come in and build you a new house because you have had problems with your old one. ?Hopefully they're teaching the guys some good things to help them move on with the their lives," said Fraher.

The Fraher family's new home is expected to be completed by Labor Day.

"For me just a piece of my heart goes into this program because this woman is so deserving. She gave her son. All we're giving is time," said Yauger.

"It's a huge tribute to him and they've put up some flags and so he'll always be in our memories and hearts," said Yauger.


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