Tipton speaks

State Representative Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, left, speaks at the Homes for Our Troops event for Army Specialist Steven Baskis, seated center, on Jan. 6 at Crossroads Victory Fellowship Hall. Alicia Berta is seen at the back and Hank Galbreath is on the far right. 

When the escort made of area American Legion Riders posts and first responders for Army Specialist Steven Baskis pulled up to Crossroads Victory Fellowship Hall on Jan. 6, the crowd went wild.

Baskis, a Homes For Our Troops house recipient, was welcomed to Montrose at the organization’s Community Kickoff Event. U.S. Representative Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, Mayor Judy Ann Files, Home For Our Troops representatives and a number of veterans and residents were in attendance.

While serving as an infantryman with the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq, Baskis was injured during combat, which resulted in a Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as damage to his sinus cavities, arteries and nerves in his left arm and a total loss of his sight.

Homes For Our Troops is a national nonprofit that builds new, adapted homes for severely injured post 9/11 veterans across the U.S. Each home built is adapted to veteran’s needs allowing them to access the home completely and be independent.

The event started off with a number of speakers, including Tipton, Files and Baskis. Many of those who spoke about Baskis mentioned his giving nature and what a great addition to the community he will be.

“Steve is one of the more productive veterans I’ve ever met in terms of what he is trying to do and wants to do for others. It’s beautiful,” said Joe Holt, a local resident and member of American Legion Riders. “I’ve been a veteran since 2002 and so I’ve worked in five, six states, something like that, with veterans now. I’m telling you he’s one of the top two or three of any man I’ve ever met in terms of what he’s trying to do with his time and it’s incredible.

“That’s why we’re all here, that’s why the community showed up … We showed up in force this morning because of who he is as a human being. Not because he was wounded as a veteran, it wasn’t because he’s a blind guy, it’s because he’s Steve.”

Files said it is interesting to her that Baskis has a “pay-it-forward” attitude, noting she thinks we could all take a lesson in that and become great citizens of the U.S. and our community. She added she believes this could be the start of Homes For Our Troops building more houses here.

“We all owe a debt of service to all of our veterans and active servicemen for what they do for our country, which also includes what they do for our community,” Files said. “Being able to have them in our community, to be a positive part of what we do is just good for us.”

Hank Galbreath, the major gifts officer from Homes For Our Troops, said during his speech this organization is a wholesome program which helps veterans not only receive an adaptable house but a home by helping to integrate them in the community. He also praised Baskis, noting though he lost his sight, he did not lose his vision.

“When you meet Steve and you listen to what he plans for the future, people will use the term — obviously he was wounded they will say he lost his vision but it’s really not true,” Galbreath said after the speeches were finished. “He lost sight but when you talk to him ... about how he would like to grow the adaptive sports program for veterans, he has in his mind a vision … and when you listen to him you’re inspired. He’s a visionary and it doesn’t just have to be through the retina ...”

After his speech, Baskis said his home will help him build on his dreams and ambitions as well as provide him financial security as the home will be mortgage free. He added the event was great and said it was another warm welcome from the community.

Having complete strangers show up for the event really showed the support of the community, Baskis said.

“I’ve had a good feeling because of the people,” Baskis said. “...Since my early visits, I’ve had a great feeling, vibe from people who live in this region. That, probably more important than the terrain, is a huge on influencing me to live in the area.”

Monica Garcia is the Montrose Daily Press’ news editor. A Colorado native, she studied journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her experience includes time at the Montrose Daily Press and The Denver Post. Follow her on Twitter @MonicaGarciaMDP.

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