Retired 1st Lt. Nicholas Morris is getting ready to call Montrose home.
Morris, who majored in political science and is an avid follower of politics, said he is looking forward to possibly one day running for mayor, or finding another way to help the community. For now, he’s looking forward to getting a feel for it all. “Meeting new people ... getting that whole town vibe, getting to know everyone,” he said.
Morris, one of three veterans who will be receiving an adapted house from Homes for Our Troops, will be welcomed to Montrose this week. A community kick-off event, to welcome Morris to his new town, will take place 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Crossroads Victory Church, 515 Hillcrest Drive, Montrose.
As previously reported, Morris was injured in Afghanistan in June 2011 while on a resupply mission with 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. An unexpected pressure plate explosive device blew up under the vehicle in which Morris was traveling, injuring him, four other soldiers and killing their interpreter.
He sustained injuries to both legs, a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), and a broken back and jaw. He was eventually transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. where he underwent 30 surgeries in three months. His right leg had to be amputated and he wears a brace on his left.
After his injury, Morris started climbing and hiking, and continues as he has found it gives him the best therapy and mental clarity. He is hoping to be the first amputee to summit all Colorado 14ers. He has summited 22 and hopes to be at 29 by March, which marks a year for this endeavor.
Morris also wants to create a nonprofit that focuses on the outdoors.
“Just being in nature helps — to use that as sort of a therapeutic session...,” Morris said. “I find it better when you’re in nature. You’re pushing yourself more than someone is challenging you and I think that’s the best way to cope because your mind is working, your body is working, everything is clicking at the same time so you get to think things out and the dopamine aspects helps to open your mind to kind of come up with what you want to get done.”
Although his intended nonprofit will be open to all, Morris said the focus will be on children who come from difficult backgrounds. This would be a mentor-type program for them, Morris added. Other disabled veterans and disabled civilians could also benefit from his hoped-for program.
“I want to focus on children because with those young minds you can do so much molding and push them in the right direction rather than the wrong direction,” Morris said, adding work with inner city youths may provide them the opportunity to experience nature for the first time.
Homes For Our Troops is a national nonprofit that builds new, adapted homes for severely injured post 9/11 veterans across the U.S. The homes enable veterans to rebuild their lives, Teresa Franco Verity, editorial coordinator for Homes For Our Troops, previously told the Montrose Daily Press. Each home built is adapted to veteran’s needs allowing him or her to access the home completely and be independent.
Morris grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, and moved to Colorado in 2015 because he loves the mountains. He said he chose Montrose because of its size, location in proximity to outdoor activities and different climates.
“It’s the best of Colorado,” Morris said. “... It’s not too big, not too small. People, they wave and are happy, and everyone knows everyone — I don’t mind that. I like that.”
Receiving this home will bring ease to Morris’ life. He said in this home, he will be able to utilize his wheelchair when needed. The freedom that brings, and having an adaptable shower, will be a big bonus. Morris added he has friends who were also injured in the war and now they will be able to visit him with no problems.
Morris’ house journey has already started, as the HFOT has already found land for him. HFOT intends to have Morris in his new home sometime next year.
As far as this weekend goes, Morris is looking forward to meeting folks in the community, including Army Spc. Steven Baskis, another Homes for Our Troops recipient. Morris said he really enjoys talking to people and he is looking forward to the event.
Monica Garcia is the news editor at the Montrose Daily Press.