After seeing only internet photos of the free home being built for his family, disabled Marine Lance Cpl. James Poggi finally saw the real thing Wednesday in Mascoutah. He was overwhelmed.
"I go through the pictures two or three times a day. I can't stop looking. I've dreamt of it," Poggi said.
Poggi was severely injured in a 2010 accident while working at an aircraft landing site in Afghanistan. His neck and back were struck and the resulting degenerative nerve disorder forced the amputation of his left leg and greatly reduced function in his right arm. He was also left with memory loss and post-traumatic stress disorder.
He was honorably discharged after the injuries and life wasn't getting any easier. He tried to work, but kept losing jobs as his injuries made work more and more difficult. Options weren't looking good for him, his wife, Stefanie, 9-year-old son, Logan, and 5-year-old daughter, Riley.
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So when the application for a new house from Operation Finally Home was accepted, life got a lot easier.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based group built 150-plus homes for veterans starting in 2005. It partnered for the first time with the Christian Broadcast Network, which donated $140,000 to construct the Mascoutah house, furnish it and help the Poggis move from Sandwich, Ill.
The new three-bedroom home puts the Poggi family close to health services at Scott Air Force Base, as well as the Veterans Administration hospital at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. The single-story house has the large bathroom he needs to be able to bathe on his own and wheelchair-friendly doorways which are wide enough for him to roll into every room.
"It will be how it should be. We can go into their (the kids) rooms, kiss them good night. I'm excited to watch him become himself again," Stefanie Poggi said.
"It restores your feeling of being a man again. It means a lot. It means more than anybody can ever imagine," James Poggi said.
The house will be ready in eight to nine weeks.
"I wish it was sooner because the living conditions for the family have not improved," said Bob Dee Jr. who is a builder with the Mascoutah-based Homes by Design and heads the project.
A wet winter and spring have slowed things a bit and the construction schedule flexes with the availability of the volunteers, who are doing most of the work. More than 50 businesses and more than 1,000 hours have been dedicated to the build.
"I can't wait," Stefanie Poggi said, smiling.