Carroll Report Maryland Muckraker

Muckraker: Injured Veteran and wife get new home in Woodbine mortgage-free: ‘In this house we can be free’

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Brandon Huff, his wife Netta, and their new home in Woodbine

On Saturday in Woodbine, a severely injured Iraq War veteran named Brandon Huff and his wife Netta were presented with a fully-accessible new home that is officially theirs mortgage-free for a lifetime.

All that’s left for the couple to do now, is to start the family they’ve always dreamed of having, and to live out the sort of peaceful and humbly-prosperous life all former warriors and their families have earned.

Brandon Huff’s service, injury, and recovery

After realizing college was not for him, and having always had the itch to serve his country, Brandon Huff enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in September of 2001, just three days before the World Trade Centers came down during the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

When the ensuing war came, Huff was deployed to Iraq as part of a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, an agile and mechanized light infantry unit usually sent into hot zones early, ahead of the more heavily armored units that followed in behind.  

He was in Mosul Iraq in 2005, when he was called on to secure a perimeter around an area where a suspected car bomb was, so an explosive disposal specialist could come in next to investigate the car and neutralize the bomb threat were it real. 

When Huff got out of the truck that brought him to the scene, dust suddenly flew up all around him. Once it settled, he started back towards the truck, only to tip right over and collapse onto the sandy pavement. He looked down, and saw that his left leg was gone beneath the knee.

In addition to losing that leg, Huff suffered a stroke and abdominal injuries. He spent almost two years in Walter Reed Hospital in and out of surgery, followed by daily therapy, learning how to walk with a prosthetic and perform basic functions otherwise again.  

He met his wife Netta, who is also disabled and sometimes requires a wheelchair, through an Army friend sometime after, and the two have since been renting an older home together in Gaithersburg. But with narrow doorways, protruding lips over room-adjoining thresholds, and a downstairs laundry room, daily life could be a struggle for the pair.

Bread, wine, and salt for Huff’s new home

Enter Homes For Our Troops (HFOT), a nationwide organization started in 2004, that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans, empowering them to rebuild their lives and live a life of relative freedom. HFOT has built 351 specially adapted homes so far, and they have 70 more under construction right now. The organization is proud that 90% of charitable donations go directly to home builds, instead of management and administrative costs.          

HFOT hosted the unveiling of Huff and Netta’s home on Saturday, which was well attended by community members, organizational leaders, and local dignitaries alike.

Crowd assembled to welcome Huff to his new home

Congressman John Sarbanes spoke, describing how the Republican and Democrat labels in Congress go away when it comes to supporting veterans. He thanked Huff for stepping up to serve, and then presented him with a flag that had once flown over the U.S. Capitol. 

Howard County Delegates Ziegler and Woo were there. Ziegler joked that HGTV will have to move over, seeing as how beautiful Huff and Netta’s home was. And Woo thanked Huff for his bravery, saying he was glad he and Netta chose Woodbine as their place of residence.     

Carroll County Delegate Eric Bouchat spoke briefly too, thanking Huff on behalf of the entire Carroll delegation, before reminding everyone in the audience that such a good cause must not stop here, that it must continue locally and nationwide.   

One corporate sponsor spoke most resonantly, invoking that scene from It’s A Wonderful Life when George Bailey and his wife Mary welcome the Martini family to their new single family home. He offered Huff bread, so that his home may never know hunger. Wine, so that life will be sweet. And salt, so he and Netta may always taste the good spice of life.

Quilt of Valor Huff was given, Congressman John Sarbanes, Delegate Eric Bouchat

Filled with gratitude at one point, Netta started tearing up. Brandon placed his hand on her shoulder and rocked her gently back and forth. She took the podium, describing how the new house was completely accessible, from the wide pavement path that encircles it to the double wide kitchen and bathrooms that can accommodate two wheel chairs at once. She said that in this house her and Brandon can be free. 

After receiving a Quilt of Valor, and an offer from another executive for Huff to pick out any zero-turn lawn mower he wants, the two were ushered towards the front of their home. Huff raised a flag high above, just outside his new front door. Then he and Netta were handed the keys to their castle, and the two went right in. 

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