Army Specialist Michael Monthervil was paralyzed in Afghanistan, but Homes for our Troops builds him a home with help from the Lakewood Ranch Elks and the Rosedale Golf Classic.
The steady trickle of humanity never stops in East County, and it doesn't just affect those who live here.
Just ask Michael Monthervil.
Monthervil was an E4 (specialist) in the Army on July 28, 2014 when a training exercise in Afghanistan went wrong. Monthervil fell on his neck, fracturing his spine.
He lost the use of his legs in the accident and he eventually was sent to the Tampa Veterans Administration Medical Center.
"I was very down at first," Monthervil said. "I went through an adjustment period."
The same year Monthervil was injured, a pair of friends and Rosedale residents, Deb Kehoe and Kathi Skelton, hosted their first Rosedale Golf Classic to benefit the Homes for Our Troops program that provides disabled veterans with adaptive homes.
It might have been fate their paths were meant to cross.
Monthervil, who applied for the Homes for Our Troops program, is watching now as his new home is being built in San Antonio. Living in Tampa, he expects to move next summer with his wife, Ashley.
"This means the world to me," he said. "Ever since I met Deb and Kathi, I have been so grateful. Having this home means I will get my independence back. It excites me and keeps me going forward. I am getting out more now and I have been playing wheelchair rugby.
"I think of a community like Rosedale, and all those people out there (in the Lakewood Ranch area). For those people to donate their money ..."
Monthervil was at the Lakewood Ranch Elks Lodge Oct. 23 for the "Homes for Our Troops All-Star Talent Review." While the event was meant to raise funds for the veterans' program, it showcased what is so special about the area.
Kehoe and Skelton started the fundraising ball rolling, but the effort has snowballed since, being touched by hundreds of people who want to help, even in a small way. The Elks veterans committee, led by Tom Sweeney, has embraced the effort for the past three years. Elks members Chuck and Phyllis Stolteben of the musical group Lynn's Spins, put together the special night of entertainment that included several other Elks along with singers from outside the club.
"Fabulous credit has to go to Phyllis and Chuck," Kehoe said. "They donate all their time. And Tom Sweeney is the heart and soul of the veterans committee."
The Elks presented Kehoe with $5,800 for Homes for Our Troops from the event.
Other people throughout the community have stepped forward as well, such as the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch and Jax Kar Wash. The 2021 Rosedale Golf Classic had to be cancelled due to the pandemic but the event raised $132,905 anyway because those who were going to play golf donated their money, and the sponsors did as well.
For Monthervil, the kindness means he can have a home with a bathroom meant for a person in a wheelchair, along with kitchen appliances and countertops that mean he doesn't need to have someone help him every time he wants to cook something. The technologies available for those in a wheelchair are amazing, Monthervil said, and Homes for Our Troops is on the cutting edge of the newest of those.
Monthervil said he can't help but remember the accident that left him paralyzed, but he doesn't dwell on it anymore.
"It crosses my mind," he said. "But I tend to focus on the positive things in my life. And there is so much positive. Miss Deb and Miss Kathy mean everything to me. They've gone out of their way every day to help me have freedom again. I thank them for everything they do."
He wants everyone else who has taken some part in building his new home to know that he loved being a soldier and serving his country. He said he would do it again and he never looks at his enlistment as a mistake.
"I loved building that brotherhood," he said. "My best friends from today are from the Army."
He hopes the effort continues to help the next soldier in line.
The next Rosedale Golf Classic is scheduled for April 6, 2022 and Kehoe said it is an "absolute go." Anyone who would like to be a sponsor can call Kehoe at 224-0984 or Skelton at 755-2903. The 144-player field always sells out.
"Everything is going smoothly for the (2022) tournament," Kehoe said. "People want to get out and they want to give. They've been cooped up."
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