Local nonprofit group helping wounded military veteran

Volunteers help rehab Lakeside home

LAKESIDE, Calif. - An East County military veteran and his family are receiving an unexpected gift this holiday season thanks to some volunteers.

National Guard Sgt. Travis Henschel wanted to serve his country and go to Iraq. He got his wish when his unit was deployed to Balad, Iraq, in 2009.

In June of that year, Henschel was severely injured by a massive roadside bomb.

"He had multiple wounds, both hands, shrapnel to his head, knees and hands," said Sandy Henschel, Travis' wife.

A plumber before he went overseas, Travis Henschel struggled with a severe disability.

"He tried to get the bathrooms redone, but he only ended up hurting his hands even more," his wife said.

Enter the Healing the Heroes' Home program by the group Embrace. Embrace is a 9-year-old nonprofit initially formed to bring people together to help in the community.

"Our 'Embrace the Streets' outreach to the homeless put me in touch with a lot of veterans who are out on the street, that in turn lead me down this road to helping disabled veterans," said Sean Sheppard, who founded Embrace.

Sheppard, a graduate of San Diego State University, also found a lot of students willing to help, like Kevin Hokanson.

"I'm in the construction and management program at [San Diego] State, so this program is perfect, and when I heard about this project, I said I'm in," said Hokanson.

Showers in the home are being redone, as well as concrete, paint and landscaping.

Sheppard, through the Granger Foundation and Alliance Building, and his volunteers have redone four other homes for disabled veterans. The Henschel's home is the fifth.  

"It's an amazing gift and I cannot be thankful enough," Sandy Henschel said.

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