HANSON — Paul and Jennifer Skarinka received the keys to their new home on Tuesday, April 2. The occasion, exciting for any young couple, was different than for most — it is a mortgage-free, injury-specific house built through Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors for a veteran injured in action.
“It’s beautiful,” Jennifer Skarinka said. “It’s a dream home.”
“Wow,” Paul, a Plympton Fire Department firefighter-paramedic, said after his family, including children Lilliana and Noah, toured the house. “The carpenters, the Foundation, everyone did an incredible job and it was well worth the wait. It’s truly incredible.”
It was delayed a few months due to record-low temperatures, record flooding, microbursts that knocked out power for nine days, three nor’easters, delays caused by a moratorium following the Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions — and vandalism — but the Hanson community joined builders, trade union representatives and Allen to welcome Skarinka, 39, and his family to his new home.
Skarinka, an Army veteran who lost a leg and sustained severe injuries to his left arm when his unit came under attack on a mission in Sadr City, Iraq in September 2004, said he and his family are thankful for their new home and the help of Hanson police and fire departments after the project was vandalized over the winter.
“I’m just excited,” he said. “I was nervous about moving in — it looks so nice. We’re really going to enjoy this and take a minute to kind of sit back and relax, take it one day at a time and soak it all in.”
Jennifer Skarinka said the house means her husband will be able to find comfort at the end of his working day.
“There’s no more stairs,” she said. “Taking care of other people is strenuous on his body and he gets tired [by the end of his day]. Unfortunately, in the house we were at before, he couldn’t use his wheelchair. …Now he can wheel around without having to worry about bumping into things or getting stuck. It makes me happy that he can live a somewhat normal life.”
Allen, a five-time NFL Pro Bowler, said his foundation is a way to give back to those who defend our country.
“Someone told me a long time ago, you don’t have to have a uniform on to serve your country,” Allen said. “I feel like I’ve been blessed in my life with family and work and all that. I’ve gotten a lot from this country — the ability to be free and play football and live out my dreams — so I think it’s the least we can do to show our gratitude and pay our debts forward.”
Veterans go through an application process and other veterans’ organizations “lead the way” to his program, Allen said. Skarinka also had the good fortune to be a friend of Alex Karalexis, a 1992 W-H graduate and Hanson native, who is executive director of Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors. Veterans have say in where they want their homes to be located and work with architects and designers in creating their homes.
Allen said the vandalism was horrible, setting the project back weeks and costing money.
“We haven’t had that issue before,” he said. “But I think the way the community reacted …”
“This has been a very special project and the community has been behind us from start to finish with all the hiccups that we had in between,” Karalexis said. “The high school football team raised money, local businesses raised money, had signs at the doors and things of that nature.”
Organizers thanked the Hanson Police for their work in apprehending the vandals.
The Skarinkas had originally planned on moving in for Thanksgiving or Christmas before the vandalism to windows in the home.
“All that did was galvanize the resolve of everybody who took part in this projects,” Karalexis said of the vandalism and natural disasters that delayed the move-in day. “It really made me proud to be part of this community.”
“This was a wonderful event this morning,” said state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, whose district includes Hanson. “It’s an amazing show of community for Hanson, but also the broader community, Homes for Wounded Warriors — all the folks who played a role in building this home. As other speakers have said, they built a home, but they also built a community here, that’s what’s most wonderful about this.”
Other Hanson officials present included Veterans Agent Timothy White, Town Administrator Michael McCue, Police Lt. Mike Casey, Fire Chief Jerome Thompson Jr., Deputy Fire Chief Robert O’Brien Jr., Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Szymaniak and Assistant Superintended George Ferro. Several officials from the Plympton Fire Department also attended, wearing their dress uniforms. Several representatives of building trades organizations also attended.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to help out a deserving veteran in the community,” said Harry Brett, of Hanson, business manager of the Plumber’s Union.
“It’s just an honor to be involved in something as meaningful as what this wounded warriors project is all about,” John Murphy, of Braintree, with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. It marked the first Jared Allen Foundation project undertaken in New England.
Brian Austin of New England Carpenters Training Council presented a framed photo of an inscription left by a second-year apprentice on an interior partition stud: “June 7 2018 — To our Warrior and his clan, Thank you for all you have done for our nation. It has been an honor to build this fortress for you all and may many great memories be made in this home. One nation under God.”
The inscription was discovered as repairs were being made two weeks after the windows had been vandalized.
“Minor road bump,” New England Carpenters Training Council representative Paul Gangemi, said of the vandalism to windows in the house. “The important ones they missed. It didn’t stop [us], we kept moving forward.”
The house featured five-foot-wide corridors and five-foot turnaround space almost everywhere inside. Gangemi said his organization had about three dozen volunteers from the council worked on the project.
“All the trades did a good job,” he said. “The painters were all apprentices — you go through that house, it looks like a professional painter’s job.”