Classic hits from the ‘70s and ‘80s blared over a speaker as dozens of people shoveled mulch, planted trees and put down grass outside Army Sgt. Cristian Valle’s future home in Temecula Valley Wine Country Saturday, Jan. 27.
The landscaping event was the second of three main events put on by Homes For Our Troops. The last will be Feb. 10, when Valle and his family will get the keys to a home that’s been specially designed to meet his needs as a double amputee, with such features as a roll-in shower, lowered countertops, pull down shelves and wheelchair accessible appliances.
The view from Valle’s future backyard isn’t bad either. From his patio, Valle will be able to see significant swath of Temecula Valley Wine Country – a landscape dotted with orange groves, grapevines, trees and Spanish style buildings. That view, and the relative seclusion that comes with it, is Valle’s favorite part.
“That’s always been my dream,” he said. “To have my own home on a private lot.”
Valle, an Infantryman, was on patrol with the 100th battalion Oct. 23, 2005, performing a vehicle check in Balad, Iraq, when a mortar round with a grenade attached was thrown from the window of a passing vehicle. Valle lost one of his legs in the explosion and another was so severely damaged that he had to have it amputated.
The retired Army sergeant said the injuries he suffered during the incident sometimes make things difficult in his current home, but he feels the new home will fix that.
“I can go pretty much anywhere compared to where I am now,” he said. “It gives me the freedom to do pretty much anything.”
The home, located on Camino Norte, will be the 250th home built by Homes for Our Troops. The organization seeks to help severely wounded veterans such as Valle by building and donating homes to them.
On Saturday, the dozens of volunteers were hard at work turning a barren landscape into a vegetated oasis complete with citrus trees, shade trees, purple lantana flowers and green grass.
“This by far is my favorite because you get to get out, get your hands dirty,” said Jacquelyn Garcia, one of the volunteers. “You feel like you’re doing something positive and constructive. You just see everyone getting together and getting it done.”
Garcia said she got involved with Homes for Our Troops events after her own husband received a home from the organization. She said that one of the impressive elements of the event is how quickly everything seems to come together.
“It seems like a lot of work, but with all the volunteers, we can knock this whole property out in about an hour and a half,” she said. “I think the fastest they got a house done was about an hour.”
Dennis Dilucente is another volunteer who has participated in about 18 of the Homes For Our Troops events. He said there’s value in event such as the landscaping events because members of the public have a “buy-in” and can see their efforts come to fruition.
“Instead of just supporting a nonprofit with money, there’s actually some sweat equity put into it,” he said.
As volunteers were quickly transforming the outdoors, the inside of the soon-to-be-donated home was nearly complete.
Blanca Valle, Cristian’s wife, said she was glad for the spacious new home which would provide the couple’s children with ample space to run. She said she loved the kitchen as well.
“I’ve always wanted an island and now I have this humongous, huge island,” she said.
The Army sergeant’s wife says she’s glad both for the Homes for Our Troops organizations as well as the people who came out on their Saturday to plant trees and deposit mulch.
“Thank you to everyone for everything they do for us,” she said.