Corporal Justin McLoud served nearly six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, with three deployments.
On December 10, 2010, a fellow member of his battalion stepped on the pressure plate for an improvised explosive device, and the resulting explosion left McLoud without his legs and left arm.
McLoud has not a single regret about serving his country.
“I would definitely go back if I had the chance,” McLoud, 24, said last Friday morning after the opening ceremony for Homes For Our Troops’ build brigade weekend.
In three days, the build brigade put up walls and raised the roof in the first stages of building a home for McLoud and his family on Cindy Lane in northern Ste. Genevieve County.
The foundation already had been poured and wall frames set up for quick work Friday morning as volunteers began their effort. The crews planned to work through the weekend to get the house weatherized.
Work will continue to set up the inside of the house with special adaptations for McLoud, who was using a wheelchair last weekend and also has been rehabilitating with prosthetic legs.
McLoud, his wife Amber and their 20-month-old son, Desmond, were escorted from Festus into Ste. Genevieve County by members of the Jefferson County and Ste. Genevieve County sheriff’s offices and the Patriot Guard.
Dozens of people lined Route DD with signs, welcoming McLoud to his new home in northern Ste. Genevieve County.
Homes For Our Troops is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to provide specially adapted houses for those who have been severely injured in conflicts since September 11, 2001. The home in Ste. Genevieve County is the second in Missouri.
The first was built for Staff Sergeant Robert Canine, who spoke during Friday’s ceremony. Canine since has raised more than $100,000 for Homes For Our Troops.
“They don’t just build homes; they rebuild lives,” Canine said. “It allows you to focus on getting better instead of worrying about how you’re going to take care of your family.”
Canine visited McLoud in California in May 2011 to inform him that he would be getting the second Home For Our Troops house in Missouri.
Other speakers at Friday’s ceremony included Homes For Our Troops President Ken Preston, a retired sergeant major of the U.S. Army; State Sen. Kevin Engler; and Peggy Nalls, chief advocacy officer for the Missouri Credit Union Association.
The credit unions—Nalls recognized Anheuser-Busch Credit Union for this project—have been active in financing the homes, following the lead of the Mid-Missouri Credit Union at Fort Leonard Wood. They donated $100,000 for this project.
“Justin volunteered for us,” Nalls said, “so we are now volunteering for him.”
Engler recognized the veterans on hand and told the assembled volunteers, “These are the heroes we need to teach our children about.”
McLoud has interest in being a teacher of history. He plans to apply at Webster University and wants to work straight through to obtain his Ph.D. in history.
“I love history,” he said. “I get told something one time and it’s just always there.”
His service in the Third Battalion Fifth Marines (the Darkhorse) was something that will be part of military history. McLoud said the action in Afghanistan was tense, with more firefights than any military conflict since Vietnam.
The “Fighting Fifth” lost 24 men from October 2010 until its deployment ended in April 2011 during Operation Enduring Freedom. The Sangin district in the Helmand province, where McLoud suffered his injuries, was an area where—according to an Associated Press report—the Taliban processed opium and heroin and funneled drugs, weapons and personnel throughout the province and Kandahar province.
In Afghanistan, McLoud said he had 70 confirmed kills in three months.
“If I could go back in time,” McLoud said, “and say, ‘Redo this where I don’t go on deployment and I don’t lose my limbs,’ knowing I was going to lose my limbs, it was definitely worth it just to be there. Just the nature of it, it’s what I always wanted to do. I was in a leadership position and a lot of people needed me there as a team leader. I pretty much went for that reason. I actually would have been getting out of the Marine Corps before that deployment ended, but I volunteered for that deployment.”
McLoud joined the Marines in October 2006, just a few months after graduation from Hillsboro High School.
“I always wanted to join the Marines as far as I can remember,” he said. “I come from somewhat of a military family, and I always enjoyed that aspect.”
McLoud did his training in San Diego and was based in California throughout his service. He was deployed to Iraq and then had a second deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), a special operations force that “just floats around the water,” he said. The MEU stopped in Philippines, Thailand, Japan and Australia and did some training with other countries.
Following his injury, McLoud has endured 50 surgeries. He has spent most of his time in California with rehabilitation, and was headed back there this week to continue the medical assessment of his level of disability.
He expects to move into his new home in Ste. Genevieve County by the end of the year. And he was moved by the show of support in building the house.
The house will have special features, allowing him to navigate to every room with his wheelchair, placing cabinets in a way that he can access them, and putting a track system in the bathroom that would allow him to access all the areas in a harness. McLoud said the cost of the modifications exceed what the Veterans Administration housing grant covers.
Homes For Our Troops—more information, including the chance to donate or volunteer can be found by searching for McLoud at homesforourtroops.org—has set a Volunteer Day for July 28.
“It’s amazing to see how many people actually care,” McLoud said. “It’s a big relief. It helps out so much with the house. There’s no other people who could do what they’re doing for me.”