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Construction starts on home for Cody veteran

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jim Butz of Cody (center) sends a shovelful of dirt flying during a Sept. 11 groundbreaking on a new house for his family through :Operation Finally Home." Butz, whose right knee was severely damaged on a Coast Guard mission, was described as a worthy recipient during the ceremony in Cody. Speakers cited Butz's selfless military service and the aid he and his wife Donna have provided to other veterans. Retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jim Butz of Cody (center) sends a shovelful of dirt flying during a Sept. 11 groundbreaking on a new house for his family through :Operation Finally Home." Butz, whose right knee was severely damaged on a Coast Guard mission, was described as a worthy recipient during the ceremony in Cody. Speakers cited Butz's selfless military service and the aid he and his wife Donna have provided to other veterans. Tribune photo by CJ Baker

When Jim Butz of Cody learned he’d be receiving a new home under a program for injured veterans, the first thing he said was that he didn’t deserve it.

A host of folks who gathered last week to break ground on the new Cody home for retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Butz and his family beg to differ.

John and Robin McClure of Cody helped get project rolling through the non-profit organization Operation Finally Home. McClure knows veterans don’t serve their country to get something out of it, but he said giving a home is “the least we can do” for Butz and his family.

“He’s earned it,” McClure said in an interview last month. “He earned it when he was in the military, and he is still earning it now by taking care of and supporting our veterans. So I would like to say, he’s very deserving.”

Butz’s knee was severely injured while boarding a suspicious vessel a decade ago with the Coast Guard.

“He didn’t think about it. He just took the plunge, ended up crushing his leg and even at that point in time, he doesn’t give up. He steps up on the enemy boat and pulls his firearm and does his duty,” Charles Cloud, a supporter of the project and a veteran himself, said last month.

“There’s nothing, there is absolutely nothing in this country, in this this city, that is more important ... than paying back a man that will sacrifice his future” for his country, Cloud said.

Butz has endured 19 surgeries since being injured serving the United States.

“As we have heard time and time again, freedom is not free, and it comes with a cost. And today we have an opportunity to all share in that cost with the Butz family as our community,” said State Auditor Cynthia Cloud of Cody at Wednesday’s groundbreaking.

McClure thought the Big Horn Basin would be the perfect place for such a project because of the Basin’s veterans and the communities’ support for them.

ody developer Ed Higbie, whose grandson was severely wounded while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, donated the 19th Street property. Rather than contribute city of Cody money, Councilmen Stan Wolz and Bryan Edwards and Charles Cloud, a former councilman, are covering the roughly $4,800 worth of city fees from their own pockets.

Those are just two examples of the donations received.

“We’ve had a great outpouring like we knew (we would) from the construction industry,” said McClure, who owns McClure Custom Builders. McClure had been looking to do something for veterans and chose to partner with Operation Finally Home.

The Texas-based non-profit was founded in 2005 to honor and thank America’s wounded service members and their widows; Operation Finally Home’s website says wounded and disabled service members can return home to extreme hardships — from physical and emotional disabilities to financial ruin, joblessness or homelessness. The organization says it aims to address the returning heroes’ most pressing need: a home to call their own, mortgage-free.

Operation Finally Home has been involved in the construction of more than 70 homes over the years, but this will be the first in Wyoming. McClure hopes it’s the first of many.

“We know there’s other projects that need to be done and we want to see the other towns in Wyoming, we want to see the Caspers, the Cheyennes, the Rock Springses, the other towns. They have veterans; they need to step up and do something,” he said.

In a letter read at Wednesday’s ceremony, Gov. Matt Mead said Operation Finally Home had “picked a wonderful couple” in Jim and Donna Butz for the first Wyoming project. A coworker of Donna Butz and letters from U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., echoed that thought. Jim Butz called the new home overwhelming and an amazing privilege.

“To get a gift like this, it’s really just something you never, ever expect to happen to you and your family, but now that it’s here, we’re going to do the best we can to pay it forward,” Butz said, pledging to help with Operation Finally Home’s next project in Wyoming.

It’s not too late to get involved and help with the home for the Butzes.

“Certainly, money always helps,” McClure said.

One reason McClure was drawn to Operation Finally Home is that it collects no salaries, fees or travel expenses.

“People should know that 100 percent of the money will go towards this project,” McClure said.

Donations are being accepted at ProBuild at 1938 Sheridan Avenue in Cody. More information can be found at an Operation Finally Home- Cody, Wyoming Facebook page or by calling the McClures at 307-527-9985.

The significance of Wednesday’s groundbreaking being held on Sept. 11 — Patriot Day — was not lost on Gov. Mead.

“We remember the thousands of Americans who died on Sept. 11, 2001 and we remember how they died,” Mead wrote. “We are reminded that good trumps evil, and we are deeply grateful to the Cody community for starting something so good on this day.”

Editor's note: This version corrects where donations are being accepted.

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1 comment

  • posted by William H. Cody

    October 21, 2013 3:51 pm

    As a 30 year military retiree, it is awesome to think that people really care about our Veterans and the difficulties that each family has to live with for the rest of their lives. What a Wonderful Surprise for this Veteran! Thanks to all of those who care enough to make a difference in their lives. signed William H. Cody, Major retired Air Force.

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