By Ivan Pereira
Staff Sgt. Winston Weston gave more than 30 years of his life to serving his country with his heart, body and soul.
The injuries he suffered on duty, however, have left the 52-year-old father of three unable to maintain the Jamaica home he and his family have treasured for more than 15 years.
“My wife and I have been sleeping on the couch for more than a year because our bedroom is so bad,” he said.
Help came to the family last week when a charity and volunteers gave his two-family house, at 170th Street and 107th Avenue, a free makeover in honor of his service. The nonprofit group Rebuilding Together worked with the office of City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program to renovate the house from top to bottom.
Matt Lang, a representative from Rebuilding Together, which provides free home improvement to low-income and needy families, said his organization was moved by Weston’s story and wanted to give him a better life since he is dealing with the long-lasting effects of serving in Iraq.
“The irony is that he knows how to do all the [home improvement] work because of his experience, but because he was injured he can’t,” Lang said.
Weston joined the army when he was 17 and served for the next 31 years as a full-time reserve officer working as a mechanic and convoy escort. He traveled around the world during his career and served in Iraq between 2003 and 2005.
During his time there, Weston was injured three times, including one instance in which an engine block fell on him. Weston, who left the army in 2008 and is now on disability, gets treatment for his ailments, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and says he lives with brutal pain.
“It’s hard. I’m still trying to adapt,” he said.
The condition of Weston’s home was not helping with his recovery.
The house, which was purchased in December 1995, has had many problems over the years, including broken flooring in the master bedroom, cracked walls and a collapsed ceiling in the kitchen.
“The ceiling was coming down and it wasn’t really nice to look at,” said Angie Weston, the veteran’s wife.
Rebuilding Together went through every space and with free supplies from Sears and workers from the nonprofit group Nontraditional Employment for Women, which trains women for trade jobs. Some of the renovations included new flooring for the master bedroom, a new ceiling for the kitchen and freshly painted walls.
The Westons said the outpouring of support humbled them.
“I can’t thank them enough,” Sgt. Weston said as he held back tears. “This really does help me a lot.”
The family, which includes two cats, said they plan to use the renovations to help others. Winston Weston said he would like to rent out the third-floor apartment once construction is completed.
“I would like a nice couple or veteran who would stay there,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.