Operation Veteran Homes Renovation helps Hattiesburg veterans

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - National groups are joining together in Hattiesburg to help veterans make improvements around their homes.

"I couldn't believe it at first, it was unimaginable," said Jerry Holliman, a 40-year career veteran.  "And then they explained to me to help veterans and I was one of the first that they selected to help like that and everything has been dang done to the letter."

Holliman enlisted in the military during the Vietnam War and served in Iraq where he participated in 37 convoy missions.

"Everybody's not cut out to be a soldier, it's just something that's in you," said Holliman.  "It's a heck of a job, it's not taken lightly, because you're not playing a game, you are playing with people's lives."

This summer, his home was chosen as the first of several to be renovated in the Hattiesburg area through Operation Veteran Homes Renovation.

"We are here to serve someone who served us," said Vicki Thomas, a project manager with Purple Heart Homes.

Hattiesburg is one of six cities selected for the program, a collaboration with Purple Heart Homes, the National League of Cities and The Home Depot Foundation.

Keesler Federal Credit Union donated $15,000 toward project costs and the City of Hattiesburg coordinated manpower for construction efforts.

"They've given so much of their time and their efforts and their careers to give us a better country, so this is just us giving them a better life," said Ben Donald with Keesler Federal Credit Union.

As part of the 9/11 National Day of Service, several Hattiesburg Firefighters were also there for the ceremony, mowing the lawn and cleaning up the bushes at the home.

"This city has been phenomenal, the partnership and the staff and their drivers," said Thomas.  "The city made a commitment, they were the boots on the ground.

For Holliman, renovations included a new air conditioning and heating unit for his home that was destroyed during a tornado that ripped through Hattiesburg in early 2017.

Holliman was exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical used in warfare, and will be using a scooter to make it easier to get around.  Renovations also included a garage door opener and ramp, to help with mobility.

"Looking ahead, you try to do the best your ability. Life throws at you speed bumps," said Holliman.  "All you try to do it adjust and adapt, that's all you can do, until my warranty runs out."

Additional groups also volunteered throughout the course of this project, including: R3SM, William Carey University student volunteers, Carpenter's Helper with Christian Services, Hattiesburg Fire Department and Hattiesburg Police Department.

"On a day where we strive to serve and show active gratitude to those who lost their lives during 9/11, it is fitting that we also celebrate the contributions made by Mr. Holliman who put himself in harm's way while serving our country," said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker.

Organizers say two more veterans will be chosen from the Hattiesburg area to help with home improvements.  All renovation projects are slated to be complete by November 11, 2017,  Veteran's Day.

To learn more about how you can improve the value of your home, visit www.luvmihome.com .