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More than ever, this build is personal

By Heather Fitz

Every Habitat for Humanity build is special. Every single one. But for me, Habitat’s 2013 Veterans Build on the Mall was personal, and I found myself moved to tears many times over the course of the build. I work for Habitat for Humanity International and I’m the daughter of Air Force Col. Michael S. Fitz. He’s a veteran — one I don’t recognize and thank enough for his service.

The color guard marches beside a finished house frame in Wednesday’s closing ceremonies. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Heather Fitz

The Veterans Build started on Sunday, June 2. By Wednesday afternoon, seven homes stood framed and proud in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Flags were billowing in the wind, a visual reminder of the men and women who have and who continue to serve our great country.

AmeriCorps members were jazzed about building on such hallowed ground. The veterans who built with us were proud to share their stories. Staff members from Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C., and two affiliates in Maryland — Habitat Susquehanna and Patuxent Habitat — made sure the build was fun, safe and completed on time.

I listened as Neal Pointer, AmeriCorps VISTA member and Vietnam veteran, told people how much this build meant to him. He wiped tears from his own eyes as he brought others to tears, explaining that for one of the first times since returning from combat, he truly felt thanked for his service.

I watched tourists and sharply dressed D.C. staffers change from frenetic and hurried to quiet and reflective as they came upon our build and learned what we were doing and why. Several identified themselves as veterans and inquired about Habitat’s new Veterans Build initiative, either in need of services themselves, or looking for a way to help fellow veterans.

As the color guard marched along the side of one of the framed houses during Wednesday’s closing ceremonies, tears spilled over onto my cheeks. I reached for my phone. I snapped a photo of them, next to the framed house with the billowing flags. I sent that picture to my dad in a text that read:

Dad – Thank you for your service to our country. I know I don’t say it enough. I love that Habitat has a Veterans Build initiative and that we are framing houses beneath the Washington Monument to serve those who have served us. I love you.

I’m proud to work for Habitat for Humanity, and I’m proud to be my father’s daughter.

Heather Fitz works in Communications at Habitat for Humanity International. She lives in Virginia.