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ASU students give vet new home

October 24, 2007

A group of ASU students recently got some extracurricular hands-on education on how to construct a house – and also learned how it feels to help provide a family with a home.

Marine Corporal Evan Morgan, a 23-year-old wounded Iraq war veteran, his wife, Jillian, and 3-month-old daughter, Sophie, have a new residence, thanks in part to 11 students in the Del E. Webb School of Construction, a part of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

The construction majors made up the workforce for a project organized by METALCON International, an annual trade show and conference for the metal construction industry, to benefit Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit organization that helps injured U.S. military veterans and their families by raising donations of money, materials and labor to provide them homes.

Working for about 10 days before and during the METALCON’s event in Las Vegas in early October, the ASU crew erected steel framing and interior and exterior wall panels for a 1,800-square-foot house for the Morgans.

The structure was put on display at the Las Vegas Convention Center for a ceremony in which it was presented to Evan Morgan, who lost his legs in Iraq when he was hit by mortar fire. The structure was later disassembled. It will be reassembled and completed when a permanent residential lot is secured for the Morgans in Bakersfield, Calif.

“We were all worn out from long days of hard work, but we felt it was all worth it when we met Evan and his family,” says ASU construction management senior Dustin Petty, who organized the student building team. “His wife was in tears while they walked through the house.”
Says fellow construction management senior Susanne Yatkowski, “It’s great to take what you learn in theory and make it reality. And then to be able to do this as a community service and help a war veteran, that made it an awesome experience.”

Other students who shared the experience are Zachery Barnes, Mike Broughton, James Bullard, Patrick Heffernan, Christopher Kisling, Jason Madison, Jeffrey Acampo, Dan Riggs and Michael Schweska.

Most of the group are members of the ASU student chapter of the National Association of Home Builders. Howard Bashford, an associate professor in the School of Construction, had recommended the project to the chapter.

“I thought they would learn something by becoming more acquainted with a segment of the industry – metal construction – that most students don’t get an opportunity to become familiar with,” says Bashford. “I think they learned a lot, and it was a rewarding project because a veteran is getting a house.”

The students were able to display their work to many of the more than 8,000 attendees from 40 countries at the METALCON event, says Claire Kilcoyne, vice president for trade shows for PSMJ Resources Inc. and show manager for METALCON International.

“The ASU students were great,” Kilcoyne says. “Evan Morgan is about the same age as these students, so I think that made more of an impression on them. It was an emotional experience for all of them. I think it hit their hearts.”

“We were given an amazing opportunity to learn the intricacies of steel stud construction first-hand,” Petty says.

Beyond that, he adds, “The effort was a small way in which we could say thanks to someone who has given so much for our country.”

To see more photos of the event, and for more information about the ASU student chapter of the National Association of Homebuilders, see