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Housing group reverses plan to give injured vet a home
PASADENA, Md. -- A veteran who lost three limbs in Iraq will not get the keys to a new home, after a not-for-profit group said the family concealed that they already own two homes.
Sgt. David Battle and his wife, Lakeisa, were to move into a home outside Baltimore on Thursday that was built by hundreds of volunteers.
But officials with Homes for Our Troops said the Battles withheld information about two homes they own in Georgia until the organization confronted them with the evidence.
"We're shocked," said John Gonsalves, the founder of the Taunton, Mass.-based organization, which has helped build 40 houses for injured veterans in 30 states. "It's disappointing anyone would take advantage of a community's big heart this way."
Battle's wife said they didn't know they needed to disclose ownership of the two Georgia homes they bought after arrangements for the Maryland home were complete.
The couple bought homes in Fayetteville, Ga., after receiving a $100,000 compensatory payment from the Army.
The Patriot Guard Riders, a Georgia-based not-for-profit group, contributed the labor to make one of the Georgia homes wheelchair-accessible.
Gonsalves said a Google alert brought that project to his attention, and when asked about it, Lakeisa Battle told him the home was owned by a cousin and that the upgrades were done to let David Battle visit.
The answer satisfied him -- until a Georgia television reporter called to tell him the Battles were to be feted at a ceremony in Fayetteville.
While covering that event, the reporter learned of the Pasadena project, called Gonsalves and faxed him a copy of the deed to one of the homes.
Representatives of the not-for-profit said they interviewed the Battles extensively to determine their financial need. In their contract with Homes for Our Troops, the Battles agreed not to intentionally omit information that could be used to determine eligibility.
David Battle lost his right arm and both legs when he stepped on a roadside land mine in Iraq. He spent months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he had been undergoing intensive physical therapy.
Gonsalves said his next step would be to find another disabled veteran to move in. The waiting list for housing is long and some have no homes at all, he said.