Christmas cheer comes early for local military family

Decorate-a-Vet volunteers trim the house of a local Navy veteran Saturday. The non-profit will decorate and perform home repairs for three other families this holiday season. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

Kathy Stewart,

ANNANDALE – On this first day of December, the holiday cheer was already flowing as a team of volunteers converged on a house in Annandale.

“We’re here at the home of a wounded veteran and his wife who’s a Coast Guard veteran,” says Jeffery Jones, founder of Decorate-a-Vet. “You’ll hear shovels behind you, mulch being spread and people are putting final touches on walkways and patios.”

Decorate-a-Vet volunteers swarm in to fix up the veterans’ house and then top it off with Christmas decorations. Their handiwork is becoming an annual event in our area. And this season volunteers will spruce up three additional homes.

The three-year-old program helps beautify the homes of military veterans for the holiday season but it does a lot more than that.

Jones says this isn’t charity but a gift for veterans who need a hand.

Wes, the wounded Navy vet, lives here with his wife and young daughters, ages two and six. He survived a tour in Afghanistan but he’s struggling with a genetic spinal cord disorder which makes walking difficult. He also suffers from seizures.

The non-profit would only release Wes’ first name to protect his family’s privacy.

Wes was thankful for the kindness of strangers who came to his house to help.

“I’m so overwhelmed by all the compassionate people and what they’re willing to do for a soldier,” says Wes.

Now Wes has new, wide walkways to make it easier to get to and from his house. And the Christmas decorations are a plus.

“Yes, Christmas came early and I know the girls are excited about the lights.” He says he hears them talking about Santa Claus already.

Decorate-a-Vet did a week’s worth of work here transforming the home’s exterior. Volunteers laid sidewalks and patios. They ripped out all the landscaping and installed new landscaping.

The family kept the girls’ play set and trampoline in the front yard because the backyard was too treacherous with debris, concrete and tree stumps — all of it now removed.

“It wasn’t safe to play back there,” says volunteer Kate Roberts, who knows the family.

Kate Roberts’ sister, Jill Dietze came to volunteer from Nashville.

“Does it get any cuter than that?” says Dietze, as Wes’ daughters, wide-eyed, pop their heads through the window curtains to watch the volunteers work.

“Now I hope we can find someone to help like they helped us,” Wes says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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