By Megan Graham
Tribune staff writer
Just a few short weeks ago, Jason and Kristina Vazquez anguished over the state of their roof.
Winter was fast approaching, and the family didn’t know how long the leaky roof would hold up.
Jason, a Marine veteran, returned home from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq several years ago. He and his wife, Kristina, bought a fixer-upper home in the hopes that Jason’s extensive training as a combat medic would quickly land him a job. But Indiana didn’t recognize any of his certifications, and he had to return to school and work as a pharmacy technician at CVS.
School, work and daily life were even more difficult with the discovery of Jason’s traumatic brain injury, which leaves him with serious memory problems, and severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which makes even mundane tasks like sitting in class near impossible.
With savings dwindling and the damage from the leaks mounting, the couple and their young daughter were surprised to hear that someone was stepping in to help. Chris Ellis, pastor at Windfall United Methodist Church, organized his congregation and members of the community to donate labor and funds to complete the roof. He called the effort “Operation Covered by Blessings.”
When Jason heard about the effort, he said he thought it was too much to ask. A friend assured him that the community was already committed to his cause.
“I’m like, ‘Listen, I know you guys are trying to get us a roof. I appreciate it, but sometimes you want to help but it’s just not there,” he said. “My buddy said, ‘You have no idea, the community wants to help. ... We’ve got the labor, all we have to do is get the supplies at cost. All we’ve got to do is raise $4,000 and you’ve got your roof.’ When he told me that I was like, ‘you’re kidding me.’ And he said, ‘No, we really want to help.’”
Mike Ward at All American Roofing & Siding oversaw the three-day process of rebuilding the roof beginning Oct. 27. James Miles of Affordable Quality Construction volunteered labor, and Brian Carroll of Integrity Roofing joined in the effort. The Touby Pike Recycling Center provided a dumpster at a discounted price.
“I was overwhelmed,” Ellis said. “I was really blown away. Things just really started to come in.”
Checks and phone calls flooded in from members of the community. A big surprise, Ellis said, was a $1,000 cash donation from a total stranger. In all, $4,200 was raised for the roof. The funds above the cost of the roof will be used to repair some of the damage caused by the leak.
It was apparent, Ellis said, that the Kokomo community wanted to take care of a struggling hero.
“The day after they finished, we were having those effects from Sandy,” Jason said. “We were just standing out there staring at it the house, knowing it was dry. We were so happy. We [had been] really worried about it.”
Jason said his family is so grateful to live in a community that takes care of veterans.
“I know our community is for our vets, but I was really surprised about how quick they jumped on this,” he said. “It really made me feel good about the community and how much they love our vets.”
Megan Graham is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. She can be reached by phone at 765-454-8570 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.