Army veteran finds new path to serve with Habitat for Humanity

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ADRIAN – After serving five years in the military and then retiring from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Doug Straub thought he would see if Habitat for Humanity could use his expertise in construction.

Now he is the construction director for Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County and directs the current construction of the non-profit house on Spring Street in Adrian. The house is for a veteran and his family.

“When I retired I retired earlier, but I was 32 years of government service and struggled to see where I was,” Straub said one day last week on the construction site of houses for veterans. “It was something, I hadn’t seen it coming. I really didn’t, but I’m glad it did.

Straub says he found the same kind of camaraderie among Habitat volunteers as he did in the military, where he served as a paratrooper and military police officer. His military experience included serving with the 16th Airborne Military Police Group during the 1983 invasion of the Caribbean island nation of Grenada. He also served with the 101st Airborne Division in Germany and Greece and with the 437th MP Company in Washington, DC

The similarities between Habitat volunteers and the military, Straub said, include the ability to work as a team with a diverse group of people, many of whom may not be familiar, towards a common goal. He said some days there was a lot of help, other days not a lot.

“You have to remember that this is someone else. … Basically, the point of service is very similar, ”he said. “It’s not about you.

The main difference between the military and Habitat, Straub said, is that Habitat is “softer and nicer.”

“I like it a lot better,” he said.

He said military veterans are drawn to helping others, and this particular Habitat project – the first veteran built by the Lenawee County Chapter – has attracted several veterans who have volunteered for the organization.

“It’s mostly individuals who find out,” Straub said. “… Now that they understand how it works, they want to keep coming back because they feel the same camaraderie. They feel it’s a good time, it’s a good feeling for them. It’s a place. where they fit.…

“It’s been good for me, and I think it’s been good for them. “

Joining the Army

Straub did not come from a military family. He was the first in his family to enlist, which he did in 1982 after graduating from high school at the age of 17 and seeing no path to college, in especially by being able to pay for it.

Now his children and those of his wife Lee have both served. Their daughter, Hillary, joined the Navy. Their son, Nick, did ROTC in college and has been in the military for about 10 years.

“I didn’t really point them to that,” Straub said. “They would ask me about it, and I would tell them it was the best of times and the worst of times sometimes all in one, but it made me a better person. It made me mature. “

Parenting children in the military was instructive, he said.

“My mother was very worried, worried,” he said. “I had to learn not to tell her a lot of things that I was excited about what I had done. I needed to keep it to myself because the same excitement was causing her anxiety. She’s losing her hair and I’m like, ‘What’s the problem? That’s what I do.

“Now I understand.”

He said most of his mother’s anxiety came from her participation in the invasion of Grenada, which came after a power struggle within the Grenadian government. The Governor General of Grenada, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Jamaica and Barbados have called on the United States to intervene. The Reagan administration was also concerned that a new, larger airport, built by Cuban military contractors, could be used by the Soviet Union to expand its influence in the region. One of the missions of the American troops was to rescue American medical students because there were concerns that they might be taken hostage, as happened with the staff of the embassy in Iran during the revolution of this country. country in 1979.

“I remember I was young and my first sergeant, when we were on the plane he was like, ‘Hey, it’s a very sunny day. It’s a great day to jump. The bad news is they know you’re coming, ”he said.

They had to parachute, then clear the debris that had been strewn on the airfield to prevent American planes from landing.

During the four days of fighting, 19 American soldiers were killed and 116 were wounded. Grenada left 45 dead and 358 injured. Twenty-four Cubans were killed and 59 were injured. Two Soviets were injured.

Continue to serve

After Straub served five years – four years plus a one-year extension – he wanted to move on and continue his education. He used his veteran benefits to help pay for his college education and earned a degree in construction management.

He continued his career at the Bureau of Prisons and retired from the Federal Prison in Milan.

“I had a builder’s license since 1995 and had built construction projects and so on, and I said to my wife after the first one of the year in 2017, ‘I think I’ll see if Habitat would like me to volunteer for them. ‘

“I didn’t know much about it,” he says. “I thought they had built a house and donated it.”

Of course, this is not how Habitat works. Homeowners of Habitat have an affordable mortgage and should be involved in the construction process. They also participate in homebuyers and financial fitness classes, as well as community services and outreach activities.

Straub called Habitat and was told they were between two foremen and would phone him when they got one. During this time, he helped a team from the Habitat ReStore bring out a kitchen in Clinton.

The Habitat ReStore sells surplus building materials, usable items removed from home improvement projects, furniture and other household items.

“This is the only time I have volunteered,” he said.

That night, Lynne Punnett, executive director of Habitat of Humanity of Lenawee County at the time, called and asked if he would be interested in becoming Habitat’s construction director. She said the ReStore team suggested he would be good at it.

“I told him I really didn’t mean it because I loved the freedom of being retired,” Straub said.

But they did meet and he told her he would do it until Habitat found someone to take the full-time job.

“It was five years ago,” he laughs. “It was just meant to be. I really like it here. “

Habitat is still looking for a veteran family for a new home.

Lenawee County Habitat for Humanity is building a new home on Spring Street in Adrian that is intended for a veteran family, but has yet to find a family for the home.

Usually at this point in the building process Habitat has a family lined up for a house, construction manager Doug Straub said, so they’re a little surprised that they aren’t interested in that house. He said he had made an effort to promote the house to local veterans organizations. He spoke about the project at the Habitat fundraising dinner in August.

Straub said it’s possible that veterans won’t seek help, either because homeownership options for veterans, such as veterans loans, are better now than when they were. left the service in the 1980s or because veterans sometimes do not seek help because they are used to being the ones helping others.

The house will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, all on one level. It will be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, including a wheelchair ramp at the back door and wide doors and hallways. There will be a porch at the front of the house.

The house is not a gift, Straub said. The owner will buy the house and take out a mortgage. Habitat owners also invest in home construction, participate in homebuyer education and financial health, and perform community service or outreach activities.

Veterans interested in the house can find the app on the Habitat website at tinyurl.com/HabitatLenaweeVetBuild. These requests can be completed and emailed to Homeowner Services Coordinator Alanna Cook at [email protected]

Those without a computer can call Habitat at 517-265-6157 or drop by the office at 1043 EUS 223 to complete an application.

Straub said Lenawee County was not the only Habitat Michigan branch facing similar situations.

The house is on track to be completed in March. He said there were constraints in the supply chain – the windows they ordered in late August are not expected to arrive until December – but because they bought most of the materials in bulk, they haven’t had a lot of pricing issues.

He said there had been “phenomenal support” for the project, including from contractors like Drew Cantu who offered his team of roofers at cost, Straub said.

Veterans Day activities

Some local events are planned to celebrate Veterans Day:

ONSTED: The American Legion’s Durkee-Seager Station and Auxiliary in Onsted is hosting a pancake breakfast from 7:30 am to 11 am today at Legion Station, 333 N. Connor St. Veterans and active military members eat for free. The cost for children 12 and under is $ 3 and $ 6 for everyone else.

ADRIAN: There will be a brief ceremony at Monument Park at 11 a.m. on Thursday, November 11, followed by a parade and ceremony in the afternoon. The parade will begin at 3 p.m. at the Adrian Armory Events Center and end at Monument Park. A program with loudspeakers, volleys of guns and tap dancing will follow the parade.

TECUMSEH: There will be a ceremony at 11 a.m. on Thursday, November 11 at Brookside Cemetery. The featured speaker will be retired US Navy Lieutenant Donna Bradley.

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