We woke up bright and early, around 7:00am. A select few were on breakfast crew, we ate, packed our lunches and were at the facility by 8:00. After arriving we had a de-briefing led by Troth, a veteran in charge of operations and construction. We learned about our major challenge for the week, to ‘rehab’ a two-bedroom house and make it livable for two deserving veterans. He introduced us to each individual team leader (all of whom are vets) and simultaneously explained the task of each team. We each volunteered for what we most wanted to do- kitchen duty, main room clean up, bathroom duty, and either bedroom. Also some of us worked on landscaping projects and started planning for the smoking hut (a place of social gathering for many vets.) We dove in headfirst and worked straight until our lunch break at 12.
After scarfing down food, Troth and another veteran told stories about their time in the military, post military and how they ended up at Comin’ Home. Troth explained that this program is unlike other veteran programs. The veterans can stay as long as they need, and return if they need. As Troth explained, when some vets leave the military they are stuck in the same mindset that they were in when they entered. This could mean that at 30 they still have the same mentality as they did at 18. He explained that all staff genuinely care and are devoted to creating structure, instilling strong values and encouraging responsibility in the lives of these men and women. It was truly inspiring.
Everyone was very grateful for our hard work. We all found that as we worked alongside the veterans, they opened up more and more.
After lunch we returned to work and were joined by Rabbi Ari Israel, the director of Maryland Hillel. He jumped right in and helped us do some painting. Some of the specific tasks we did were: sheet rocking the bathroom, scraping old tile and glue off the floor, ripping up carpet, refurbishing cabinets, weeding, laying out plans for the smoking hut and scraping off 20 years of grease/dust/goo from the underside of the cooling fan above the stove. All in all, according to Troth, we completed three days of work of a professional construction crew in only one day.
After our long day of work we debriefed, went home and relaxed. The kitchen crew made delicious lasagna, mashed potatoes and salad. At dinner we were joined by Mary Pat, the director of Comin’ Home. We suggested questions to ask at our upcoming discussion circle between us and the veterans like, How did your family react to your decision to enlist? How often do you think about your time in the military? How do you feel about the troops returning from combat today? We also did a group activity where everyone told his or her high point, low point and hero of the day. It was a fabulous close to an exciting and activity filled day. Now, we are all relaxing and about to catch on some much needed shut eye. Stay tuned for tomorrow!
(Thanks to Melissa Shapiro for writing today’s blog and Sarah Kraut for yesterday’s!)