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Nonprofit gifts for Army vets wounded in Iraq custom house near Jupiter

JUPITER — Army Staff Sgt. Michael Montange was leading a convoy in Baghdad, Iraq, some 15 years ago when he was hit by a roadside bomb.

He awoke three years later after a medically-induced sleep coma. His left leg and hip were severely damaged. He would need multiple surgeries over five years and only 30% of his left leg could be used again. 

After more than two years of surgeries and rehabilitation, Montange had his leg amputated and found himself negotiating life in Michigan winters in a wheelchair.

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“So I came down to Florida. And I never want to see snow again,”Montange said.

For the last decade-and-a-half, Montange has lived in several homes in both Michigan and Florida — none of them wheelchair-accessible. 

Every home has come with daily obstacles, from the height of the cabinets to elevated door jambs, and beyond. But Montange doesn’t have to pop a wheelie over his threshold or have his wife, Cami Sue Huston, help him cook anymore.

In August, the veteran and his wife moved into a home built for him just west of Jupiter in Palm Beach Country Estates off Donald Ross Road.

Home is a gift for veterans who were wounded in combat

The foundation responsible for making Michael and Cami Sue’s everyday life easier is Homes For Our Troops, a national charity that helps to For veterans, homes specifically designed to meet their needs are available.

It is the third Palm Beach County home the nonprofit has built in recent times, following Jupiter Farms and The Acreage.

“When I went home, I moved into my parents’ house while I was looking for a house,”Montange said. “And if it snowed, until somebody shoveled that thing, I wasn’t going anywhere.”

“And the door jambs were high, in order to keep out the snow and weather. I had to pick up the wheels to go over their entranceway and there were steps in the front. If I wanted to go out, I had to go out the back door. Period.”

Montange, a Cape Coral resident, met his wife through Match.com five years ago.

Michael Montange enjoys golf and uses his Stand up and Play Foundation wheelchair. It allows him to move around on the golf course without sinking into the grass. It also assists him in standing to make shots. He and Cami Sue also scuba dive.

“She messaged me and I messaged back: ‘Do you play Monopoly?’ And she said, ‘Yeah,’ and then we met that Sunday at Starbucks,”Montange said. “And then every day that week.”

During their second week of dating, Montange moved into Cami Sue’s three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,400 square-foot apartment. Another living space with narrow doorways, high door jambs and a showerthat was inaccessible to Michael.

“Anytime you make adjustments to your living situation, there’s always walking on eggshells and stuff like that. But honestly, I’m so in love with him, it didn’t matter,”Huston spoke through watery eyes.

 In their new home, there are no eggshells.

What makes this house a home

Michael can easily make his own meals because the counters are low enough that he doesn’t have to reach high shelves or reach for tools and ingredients. There are features built into the couple’s cabinetry and pantry that make it easy for Montange to reach to the back of a shelf, or grab  a ceramic bowl without fear of breaking it. 

Montange can transfer hot pans to the counter by placing their oven at the bottom of the countertop. Huston seems to do the majority of the cooking. Montange wants to be able reach the mac-and-cheese box without having to lift anything off the shelf.

Michael Montange cuts open a pack of pork chops as his wife, Cami Sue Huston, starts to prepare dinner at their home in Jupiter last month. Like other rooms in his home, the kitchen was built with accessibility features in mind. All the countertops are lowered to be easily reachable from a wheelchair, high cabinets have moving shelves that bring items within reach, and the stovetop has open space underneath where wheelchair users can park their chair while cooking.

The doorways are wide enough for a wheelchair , and the doors have a push-to-open button, Montange can use when his hands are full. He also has a remote that opens each door from outside. 

Every door jamb is aligned with the concrete path that runs around the house. For the first time, Montange doesn’t have to wriggle his wheelchair through the grass to enjoy his home’s outdoor spaces.

Few realize the countless small obstacles that homes can pose for someone in a wheelchair, until they’ve toured a home made to accommodate one. Rethink light switches, doorbells, and showers. 

SSG Michael Montange with his wife, Cami Sue Huston, at the ceremony to receive their new home.

“Moving in really opened my eyes,”Montange said. “Just seeing the house in the first place was like, ‘Wow. … I’m going to have all this room to move around and I’m not going to hit things.’ Finding the small things, like the Ring camera or the doors that open themselves.”

Both sides now have equal standing in the argument about ages-old marriages. 

“ I’m actually kind of disappointed you figured out … that the thermostats are lower,”Montange was able to laugh at Huston’s joke.

For the Palm Beach Post, Lianna Norman covers northern Palm Beach County. You can reach her at [email protected]Follow her Twitter account @LiannaNorman and see her reporting.

Source Link Nonprofit gifts Army veteran injured in Iraq custom house near Jupiter

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