Veterans continue service by rebuilding home for La Crosse family in need

For some area veterans, their service for others doesn’t stop when they retire from the military. Dozens of former service members are coming together to rebuild a new home for a family in need.

Habitat for Humanity is launching this new initiative with 40 veterans from various organizations. They’re bringing the group together with two goals in mind: build a house while building new relationships.

Lt. Col. Jane Brannan admits she doesn’t have much construction experience but she’s been learning from the site’s construction manager and the nine other veterans working beside her.

“I’ve used a hammer before, I’ve done small repairs but nothing to this extent,” said Brannan, who served in the Army for 27 years.

Roger Embke said there’s a mix of experience levels at the remodeling and construction site on the 900 block of Avon Street.

“The whole venture is teaching them different techniques and new things they haven’t done in the past,” said Embke, the construction manager with Habitat for Humanity.

Staff Sgt. Bridget Johnson is volunteering with some co-workers from LHI but is enjoying working with them in a new way.

“This is a little bit colder, more hands-on and I’m doing things I have honestly never done before,” said Johnson, who decided to join the Army Reserves after 9/11.

Organizers are hoping volunteers will try this experience with veterans they haven’t met before. The hope is that the volunteers meet new people from different organizations.

“I’ve met individuals from LHI [and] other retired vets. They had a group here this morning, I understand, from Camp Douglas. So it’s a whole community effort,” Brannan said.

They’re putting in the community effort for a single mom with five kids, one of whom has special needs. Johnson said she knows their work will help change their lives.

“This is going to be their home. So it’s not just a house that they bounce around to, this is a place that they can have birthday parties, they can have slumber parties. It’s going to be theirs,” Johnson said.

The construction manager said there’s still a lot of work to do since it’s a full remodel. This home is expected to be completed in the next few months.

Habitat for Humanity is hoping to gather a large group of former military members to make a home by veterans, for veterans next year. To become a veteran volunteer, contact Volunteer Coordinator Bill Bray at or call 608-785-2373, extension 103.

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