AFSA Official Sprinkler Provider of Homes for Our Troops
Purple Heart recipient Marine Sergeant Joshua Bouchard, who uses a wheelchair after losing part of a leg and suffering a spinal cord injury in a 2009 explosion in Afghanistan, saved himself and his two dogs when he realized his home was on fire December 26, 2016. Bouchard was watching a movie when he smelled smoke. Thankfully, everyone safely escaped the fire, but Bouchard lost about $100,000 worth of wheelchairs as well as his $15,000 prosthetic leg.
His home was located in Granby, Massachusetts, a town of about 6,200 residents, and was built by volunteers in 2012 with help from the Taunton, Massachusetts-based nonprofit Homes for Our Troops (HFOT). While HFOT didn’t actually build Bouchard’s new home – insurance covered the new house – the group provided Bouchard with support and worked with its corporate sponsors to help with the of rebuild Bouchard’s home.
This is one of the things that makes HFOT great is that they provide support to their veterans long after the build is complete. “As Americans, we don’t just rebuild from tragedy, we rebuild bigger and stronger,” says Matt McGuire, HFOT manager of corporate philanthropy. “It is no different here at HFOT.”
Following the fire that destroyed Bouchard’s home, the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) reached out to HFOT to offer to donate sprinkler systems free-of-charge to Bouchard and other veterans. In 2017, AFSA became the official provider of fire sprinkler systems in HFOT homes.
As one of the organization’s partners, AFSA provided the fire sprinkler system for Bouchard’s new home through the efforts of its local members including Fire Service Group in Palmer, Massachusetts, who installed the system. “Fire Service Group is honored to be a part of the Sergeant Bouchard fire sprinkler project,” Brad Voila says. “Our company owner, Daniel Belanger, and our company’s employees understand the sacrifices our troops make, so donating our time was an easy decision. We will sleep better knowing Sergeant Bouchard is being protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system, 24/7/365 days a year. Our thanks to AFSA for promoting the HFOT program to its members.”
The three-bedroom, two-bath home is completely outfitted with eye-level appliances and other features to accommodate the Marine’s disabilities including extendable kitchen cabinets and special features like seamless transitions in his shower and bath. In addition, the home is now fully protected with a fire sprinkler system. Each HFOT house is based on one basic floor plan, which is 3,400 ft2 including the garage. This makes the fire sprinkler design for these homes fairly simple, which was just one more great incentive for AFSA members to get involved.
Ray Fremont Jr., director of marketing at General Air Products, was excited to be a part of the process by donating a pump and tank to Bouchard’s home. “We are proud to contribute to this amazing cause,” says Fremont. “Bringing fire sprinklers to any building is incredibly rewarding. Many of our family, friends, and employees are military veterans so partnering with the HFOT to bring life-saving fire sprinklers to the homes of veterans across the country is an honor and privilege.”
To date, the organization has built more than 200 homes in 42 states since the company’s inception in 2004. Many of AFSA’s members understand the sacrifice that these veterans have made, and they are eager to donate their valuable resources to the cause.
When Mike Bosma of Viking in Hastings, Michigan, found out about the work that HFOT was doing, he knew he wanted to get involved. “Viking is proud to be a part of such a great initiative like HFOT,” says Bosma. “Considering his service for our country, helping Sergeant Bouchard live in a sprinkler-protected home is a true honor. We appreciate the opportunity and leadership provided by AFSA for this cause.”
Earlier this year, construction began on his home in Granby, Massachusetts. With coordination help from the AFSA Patriot Chapter and AFSA members Fire Service Group; General Air Products, Inc.; Hampshire Fire Protection., Inc.; JFV Engineering LLC; Viking Group, Inc.; and Warehouse Mechanical; materials and time were donated to make sure that Sergeant Bouchard’s new home would be fully protected by fire sprinklers.
In July 2018, Sergeant Bouchard became the much-deserving recipient of a rebuilt house equipped with fire sprinklers. While Bouchard says he has been through so much the fire “didn’t stress me out much,” the decorated veteran says knowing that his new home is protected by fire sprinklers provides him a great sense of security.
“The sprinkler heads blend in so well I can’t tell that they are even there,” says Bouchard. “It gives me a piece of mind that I have more time to get out of the house.”
Bouchard was a mechanic with the Marines’ 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was drafted into service as gunner in the open part of the vehicle, because his unit was shorthanded, according to media reports. At the time of his injury, the 26-year-old sergeant had already served two tours of duty in Iraq. He was traveling in the Humvee with four of his buddies, two of whom were killed and two of whom were also injured.
On Friday, August 17, 2018, HFOT held a “rededication ceremony” at Bouchard’s new home where HFOT executives honored Bouchard’s service, and Bouchard’s family got a chance to thank all of those who were involved in the build for their support of Bouchard. For more information on how to get involved with HFOT projects, contact AFSA Director of Communications & Social Media Nicole Duvall at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit hfot.com.