Union Grove Army veteran surprised by turnout at home improvement project

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UNION GROVE, Ala. - The Home Depot Foundation is at it again, helping change the life of a military veteran and his family by bringing hundreds of people together in celebration of service.

Staff Sergeant Matthew Akin's Union Grove home is a construction zone. More than 100 volunteers took over Thursday to make some big changes.

“They are 100% going to turn his and his family's life around,” said Bearded Warriors President Ty Oswald.

Bearded Warriors is a Huntsville-based nonprofit.

The big event brought an emotional reaction from the Army veteran.

“Words can't really describe the feeling,” said Akin. “You get a sense of joy and a bit of pride. It's certainly a humbling experience because these people are taking time from their day to come here and show up in the rain and help out.”

The volunteers are making the home improvements for Akin in hopes of making his life easier.

“The front of his home had four fairly steep steps that went out to grass and then his garage had three steep steps. He is a two-amputation Afghanistan vet, so doing egress from his house with his prosthetic was cumbersome,” said Oswald.

Volunteers worked on multiple projects at Akin’s home, including fixing up the kids' play area, cleaning out brush, and painting the house. But the addition of a new, large deck with a wheelchair-accessible ramp is by far the most helpful project to Akin,

“With the help from Home Depot, it's a lot easier to get in and out of the house and around and actually you're able to enjoy the house a lot more,” said Akin.

The massive turnout, despite the rain, was a big surprise for Akin, but he got an even bigger surprise when some of his deployment buddies showed up.

“All of us went together because we were friends, so we went to this unit, then we were deployed together to Afghanistan, and then I got hurt and most of those guys I haven't seen since 2014, when I got hit in Afghanistan, so seeing them again, it got to me, “ added Akin.

The surprise visit of his friends was thanks to Akin's mother.

For this year’s “Celebration of Service”, the Home Depot Foundation voted to do 100,000 hours of community service. The renovation at the Akin property taking 863.

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