For retired Army specialist James Thorne, home has been more of a concept than an actual construct — but that’s about to change.
After losing first his left leg and later his right to injuries sustained from an explosive device in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan, Thorne became wheelchair bound and came to depend on the support of his family. Now, the national nonprofit Homes for our Troops will be giving James a home in New Braunfels to call his own.
The specially built house will feature more than 40 major special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower, and kitchen amenities such as pull-down shelving and lowered countertops.
A community kickoff event to start the home’s building process will introduce Thorne to the community and will be held at Holy Family Catholic Church at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11.
“We were in Kandahar … and they sent me and another guy on my team to go sweep with a mine sweeper in the little ravine and we didn’t find anything until I stepped on one,”
Thorne recalls. “I didn’t hear anything, just kind of flew in the air.”
Thorne, who was 21 at the time, was saved by a field surgeon and a lieutenant colonel who had heard the explosion go off and ran to him.
“He did not look very good when he came off that plane, and the doctor was surprised … he said that most boys that suffer those types of injuries don’t make it to the states,” said Michael Thorne, Jame’s father and an Army sergeant with 34 years of experience in the armed forces.
Michael Thorne said his son has kept an upbeat attitude after his injuries, and inspires him every day.
“He hasn’t quit, just every step forward — and his attitude and his philosophy about the whole thing was — to me he’s a far better man than I ever could be,” Michael said.
While James said his father never left his side throughout his recovery, he credits his mother, retired Army command sergeant majors, Elizabeth Bryant, with telling him about Homes for our Troops.
“My mother is the whole reason I’ve been given the opportunity to have this home,” James said.
Born and raised in New Mexico, James became familiar with New Braunfels during his 10 months of recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. In this time span, James received more than 75 surgeries.
Now medically retired, James stays active in his recovery by going to the gym at least every other day, and is working on getting refitted for prosthetics.
James joined the military as a last minute decision in 2009 after his plans of going to music school didn’t work out — and still holds an affinity for the arts.
“I’ve always liked movies, and I was thinking if I do (receive) a house … (I can go on to study) film,” James said.
Holy Family Catholic Church is located at 245 S. Hidalgo Ave. Check-in for volunteers begins at 9:30 a.m. For more information about Homes for our Troops visit www.hfotusa.org.