Home for a Hero
Mansfield’s own Omar Milan grew up wanting to be in the
military. So it was no surprise when he graduated high school and joined the
Marines. His service took him around the world to places like Iraq, Africa, and
finally, two tours in Afghanistan. It was in Afghanistan on January 9, 2012,
that his life forever changed.
While on patrol, an IED blast took his right leg, caused significant injuries to his left leg, took fingers from his left hand, and damaged his right arm. What followed were 40 surgeries and two years of physical therapy before he medically retired in 2014.
Milan has since moved back home to Mansfield with his wife and two children. He has a deep love for woodworking and says it helps him deal with stress. But the wheelchair-bound veteran has trouble in his home finding enough space to pursue his woodworking. That’s why Home For Our Troops, a national nonprofit organization that serves veterans, stepped in this year and is building Milan a fully accessible home. The new home will give him enough space for woodworking, provide easier access throughout his home, and allow him to regain more of his independence.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new home in Mansfield was held this past spring and the construction on the home is nearly complete.
We had a chance to visit with Staff Sergeant Milan and find out a little more about him.
How old are you and how did you get interested in joining the military? I am 36 years old. I became interested in the military at a young age when I saw commercials and watched action movies that involved the military.
Tell us more about your own personal background? My parents immigrated from Mexico and settled here in the city of Mansfield. I was born in Fort Worth and grew up here in Mansfield. I married the love of my life in 2003; Michelle and I have 2 girls. I joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. I deployed once to Iraq as a radio operator. Then, later, once to Africa, and twice to Afghanistan as an EOD technician. During my final deployment to Afghanistan, I was seriously injured on January 9th 2012. After a long recovery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, I was medically retired. My family and I moved back to Mansfield in 2014.
You grew up in Mansfield, where did you got to school and what are some of your favorite memories in the community? I attended Alice Ponder, Mary Orr, Rogene Worley, and graduated from Mansfield High School in 2000. Growing up here was great just about everyone knew each other and I made many lifelong friends. The place that sticks most in my head would be getting home from a trip with the family and our dad would stop at Whataburger no matter what the time. It made me feel that I was genuinely home.
Explain your hobbies/interests and how they impact your life today. Some of my hobbies include wood working, knot tying, fishing, and video gaming. Many of these hobbies help me cope with my traumatic brain injury, they also help with stress relief. I would have to say that wood working also challenges me to find ways to use my hands in a new normal way.
What do you like most about living in Mansfield today? I would have to say all the growth that has happened the last 18 years, and it is still growing. The schools are also excellent. We are very grateful that our girls get to attend and participate in all the new programs that are offered to the kids.
Explain the non-profit groups you have been involved with and what they mean to you. There are a few that I have become involved with and help when I can. The Boot Campaign is one that offers a variety of programs, but the one that is their main focus is The Reboot. It helps veterans get the necessary help they need for dealing with Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries. Spirit of a Hero is another one I am a part of as a board member. We provide assistance to veterans in the DFW area. Cowtown Warriors is one that offers veterans a hand with things they are struggling with, whether it’s making a rent payment, car payment, or even helping them find jobs.
How do you feel about Homes For Our Troops building this new home for you? I feel very humbled that Homes For Our Troops chose me and my family for a home. It will greatly improve our lives by removing physical barriers and providing a safer, more comfortable home. I don't think that such a word exists that can convey how grateful we are for not just for HFOT but also everyone that has contributed to make this all happen.
The home being built for Omar will feature more than 40 major special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower, and kitchen amenities that include pull-down shelving and lowered countertops. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, including navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds, or reaching for cabinets that are too high. Mansfield Custom Homes is the build partner for this project. Homes For Our Troops has built 250 homes since the organization’s inception in 2004. HFOT relies on contributions from donors, supporters, and corporate partners for the building of each Veteran’s home. Community members may hold fundraisers or make donations. To find out more on how to get involved or make a donation visit www.hfotusa.org.