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Wheatfield businessman assists wounded veteran

by jmaloni
Sat, Feb 2nd 2013 07:00 am
Above, the completed home for Cpl. Paul Schaus. Inset, Michael Gurnett, left, is shown with Schaus, whose new home, built by Homes for Our Troops, is in North Tonawanda. Mike Hetrick, far right, works on Schaus' home.
Above, the completed home for Cpl. Paul Schaus. Inset, Michael Gurnett, left, is shown with Schaus, whose new home, built by Homes for Our Troops, is in North Tonawanda. Mike Hetrick, far right, works on Schaus' home.

While on his second deployment in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Cpl. Paul Schaus was left a double amputee after stepping on a landmine during a firefight with insurgents in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on June 5, 2009.

Following a mission protecting another squad while it destroyed an enemy bunker, the Western New York native and his squad came under enemy fire. For nearly an hour, the mortars and small arms fire continued as Schaus and his squad held their ground and engaged the enemy in close range.

While taking his team to check the flank for enemy movement, Schaus stepped on a landmine and was critically injured, losing both of his legs above the knees and a finger on his left hand. Life saving measures by his squad readied him for MEDEVAC to Camp Leatherneck, where despite having twice gone into cardiac arrest, Schaus was able to be airlifted to Landstuhl, Germany. He was eventually transferred stateside and spent a month at Bethesda Naval Medical Center before finally being moved to Walter Reed for rehabilitation. Now back home, Schaus was faced with the need for a place to live that would be able to accommodate his needs.

The national organization Homes for Our Troops (Homesforourtroops.org) stepped in. When this organization put the call to this community for volunteers and donations to build a home for the corporal, Alarm Design Systems Inc., owned Michael Gurnett of Wheatfield, volunteered without hesitation.

"As a veteran myself, I understand the dedication and sacrifices made for our country. There was never a doubt that this was an ideal way to help someone in our community," stated Gurnett. "After learning Cpl. Schaus' story and meeting the amazing young man in person, I knew this was a wise decision."

It is the mission of Homes for Our Troops to build specially adapted homes for United States service members who have been severely injured in combat missions since Sept. 11, 2001. All homes are built at no cost to the veterans that are served.

Alarm Design Systems Inc., along with their vendors WatchNet, Tri-Ed Distribution, PDM Services, and Nutone, donated a security system, a closed circuit television system, and a Central Vacuum System for Schaus' new home. Installation was done by owner Gurnett, lead technician Mike Hetrick of Niagara Falls, along with volunteers Carl Heilmann, a teacher at West Street Elementary; Chris Zastrow of the 107th Airlift Wing, Air National Guard; William Menshon, facilities manager, Burchfield-Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College; and Daniel Gurnett, a senior at Starpoint Central School.

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