LISBON — Several carpenters kicked off the Memorial Day weekend giving their time to build an access ramp at the home of a Vietnam War veteran.
The project, part of a statewide effort, was organized by Connecticut House of Heroes, a 10-year-old nonprofit organization serving military and public safety veterans and their spouses who are disabled, living on a fixed income or facing other challenges.
Jim Brodowski and his wife, Judy, were seated in the living room of their Lisbon home, watching the TV news as workers from Carpenters Local 326 were outside, sawing and sizing wood planks that would form a 16-foot ramp connecting the front door to the driveway.
The couple has lived in their house for 30 years, sharing it with two orange look-alike cats.
While in Vietnam, Brodowski, who reached the rank of sergeant, had what he called the “most important job in Vietnam.” He was a keypunch operator, the vintage job punching holes in stiff pieces of paper that issued the commands for early computers. He established and maintained troop and supply records for soldiers and commanders to carry out their missions.
He served during the Tet Offensive of 1968, has post-traumatic stress disorder and neuropathy that hinders mobility and daily life. Brodowski 75, a former plow operator and truck driver for the state Department of Transportation, gets around with the help of a rollator walker.
“That’s been my best friend for five years,” he said.
David Jarvis, a carpenter and an officer of the Carpenters Union, said the project is not complicated.
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“You need people to do it and then do it,” he said.
Judy Brodowski said she found House of Heroes on the internet and reached out two years ago, asking for help for her husband.
“Nothing happened and I forgot about it,” she said. “Then they called two months ago.”
The access ramp is the latest improvement to the house that the Brodowskis call a work in progress. Built in 1747, it’s the second or third oldest house in Lisbon, Brodowski said.
The projects this weekend by House of Heroes will help the largest number of veterans in one day. In addition to Brodowski, veterans in Clinton, North Haven, Old Saybrook and Woodbury benefited from work by dozens of volunteers and carpenters who offered their time at no cost.
“This is going to make my life a lot easier,” Brodowski said.
Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected].