General Richard Cody, former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, served 36 years in the military, but perhaps his proudest work is through Home for Our Troops. After he retired from the Army in 2008, Cody was named chairman of the board at his first meeting.
“What struck me about Home for Our Troops is that they are making a lasting difference to the most needy,” Cody said.
The 501c3, founded in 2004, provides specially-adapted, brand-new homes with no mortgage payment required, to over 1,700 of the most severely wounded soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Many are young, married with children and face limited work opportunities because of disabilities as debilitating as double amputations.
“[Home for Our Troops] builds homes and rebuilds lives. We create the conditions so our Veterans can rebuild their lives to the new normal they have,” said Cody, adding that the Homes for Our Troops removes the burden of mortgage payments so the veterans can focus on rehabilitation and family.
As of this month, they have delivered 200 new homes, built to Veterans Administration, specially-adapted housing codes that, for example, require widened corridors for wheelchair accessibility. Each house has a hurricane-safe room, an auxiliary power unit and first-class appliances. The title for the home goes to the veteran, but Home for Our Troops sits on the title for ten years.
In an effort to stay connected, Home for Our Troops also has a “Veterans Outreach Council.” Councilmembers are veterans that have already received their own homes, who now make contact and act as an ombudsman for recipients of newer homes. This demonstrates the care of the organization beyond passing off the keys.
“If they have trouble in other ways, we are affiliated with world-class 501(c)(3) groups, and we put them in contact with them,” Cody said. Currently, Home for Our Troops has 50 veterans accepted, 30 of whose houses are in the building process. By 2016 the organization hopes to be providing 50 homes per year. Last month Cody officiated the key ceremony to a 2,800-square-foot home in Mexico, N.Y., for Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Hackett, who has a wife and three daughters. “When you are there at the key ceremony and you see the little girls show everybody their room… you see the quality of the kitchen, the master bedroom, the safe and specially adapted bathroom, and the land itself…it is emotional because you know that you have absolutely set the conditions for them to continue whatever the new normal is for them,” Cody said.
“The wounded veteran is forever changed as well as the unsung heroes: the spouses and their children,” he added.
Cody credits Home for Our Troop’s success in changing lives to its “pentathlete” staff of 40, led by former Maj. Gen. Timothy McHale.
“Our workforce is dedicated. They’re not in it for the salary as much as making a difference,” Cody said.
The company partners with Armstrong Flooring, Kohler, Budget Blinds, Whirlpool and national sponsors such as Texas Roadhouse, L-3 Communications, and BAE Systems. It also has a donor base of 11,000 Americans donating $10 to $15 per month. Local communities also donate significant time and materials to assist in building these properties. “It’s a great American story. When we give the Veteran and their Family the keys we say, ‘It’s not Home for Our Troops doing this. It’s a gift from the American people,’” said Cody, applauding the generosity of partnering corporations and helping neighbors.
After Cody’s long career on active duty, nothing has affected him more than handing over a home with Home for Our Troops.
A Lifetime of Service
Cody’s duty to his country began at West Point. He grew up playing sports in the small town of Montpelier, Vt., before he left for training at age 17. He describes himself as a brash, extrovert of a child. His father was a Navy Air Cadet in World War II but never deployed because the war ended. His uncle was also in the military.
Cody wanted to join the military and was recruited to play as a point guard in 1968. West Point seemed like a good fit, but little did he know he would spend four decades in service to our Nation. Medal of Honor Recipient Paul W. “Bud” Bucha was Cody’s early mentor while there.
“He instilled in me an awful lot of the values at West Point, but he made it much more enjoyable and because of that I listened more,” Cody recalled.
“The Army is an institution in which each leader’s job is not only to lead the unit but also to set conditions of success for their subordinates to do well after them,” said Cody, who kept that lesson in mind as he rose in the ranks, leading by example.
Cody was named Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in 2004. He remained in the Pentagon, working seven days per week “running the day to day business of 1.2 million soldiers at war,” until his retirement from the Army in 2008. He finds the same type of leadership, selfless service, honor, integrity and courage now in the corporate world at L-3 Communications as senior vice president of Washington Operations.
“The transition wasn’t that hard. I just have Saturdays and Sundays off now,” laughed Cody, happy he now has time to “play” with his Army 0H6 helicopter and aircraft, (in 2009 he was inducted to the Army Aviation Hall of Fame).
Cody’s two sons serve as majors in the Army, both as Apache helicopter pilots. The younger, Tyler Cody, is currently in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division after two tours in Iraq. Clint Cody works in the Pentagon and returned from Afghanistan last year following several deployments, totalling 52 months of combat.
“They’re much better officers than I ever was,” their father said proudly.
Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Cody