Pictured left to right: retired Command Sgt. Maj. Leonard Meeks, JROTC Army instructor; Cadet Capt. Bianca Sitzmann, JROTC Alpha Company commander; Katie Rocha, principal of Newsome High School; Sgt. Rusty Carter, Homes For Our Troops honored veteran; retired Col. Lonnie Dale Vona, former Newsome JROTC senior Army instructor; and retired 1st Sgt. Jaime Castro, JROTC Army instructor.

Homes For Our Troops officially kicked off the building of Army Sgt. Russell ‘Rusty’ Carter’s future specially adapted custom home in Lithia at Newsome High School on October 14. 

Carter was escorted to the kickoff ceremony by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Motor Unit, where he was greeted by Newsome High School’s JROTC cadets, members of the community and Homes For Our Troops home recipients Army Staff Sgt. Alex Dillman, Army Spc. Michael Monthervil and Master Sgt. Christopher Blauvelt. 

On January 2, 2011, the vehicle carrying Carter malfunctioned, causing it to go off the side of a bridge. Carter sustained a spinal cord injury, paralyzing him from the neck down and leaving a traumatic brain injury. His current home presents many challenges due to his disability. 

Homes For Our Troops is a nonprofit organization that builds new, specially adapted custom homes for severely injured post-9/11 veterans. Its motto is “Building homes, rebuilding lives.” 

Homes For Our Troops President, CEO and retired Brig. Gen. Tom Landwermeyer spoke at the ceremony along with Monthervil; Dillman; his wife, Holly; and Carter. 

Dillman was injured on his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. He met Carter shortly after his paralyzing injury at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa.  

“Seeing Rusty cruising around the halls and always smiling, … he made me feel so much better about the situation,” Dillman said. “He’s a beautiful person to be around and I am really excited for him to be here in Florida.” 

Carter is moving from Philadelphia to Lithia. He chose Lithia for his house build after doing research online about places to live in Florida. 

“I did a lot of Google research on different areas and this school kept coming up — this school we are at right now — and how amazing it is. I feel like that is a big flag for how great a community is. That was one of the huge deciding factors for me. I am looking forward to being a contributing member of the community,” Carter said. 

Carter thanked everyone for welcoming him to the community and expressed his extreme gratitude for Homes For Our Troops. 

“It’s really hard to even fathom. It’s truly a dream come true having a home that I will be safe in and move around,” said Carter. 

To learn more about Homes For Our Troops, visit www.hfotusa.org. To sign up for project updates on Carter’s home build and find out ways to be involved in the project, visit www.hfotusa.org/building-homes/veterans/carter/.

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