A foreclosed home revamped into affordable housing for six veterans was dedicated Saturday to honor the memory of Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller.
The home at 111 N. West St. is named in honor of Wheaton native Miller, a Medal of Honor recipient who died at age 24 in a 2008 battle with Taliban forces in Afghanistan, drawing fire away from fellow soldiers and saving their lives in the process.
The home is the second facility of the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans, sitting only a couple houses down from the shelter's original location at 119 N. West St. near downtown Wheaton.
"This is a sacred time for us -- the opening of a new home," Brigid Duffield, vice president of the shelter's board, said Saturday during a ceremony after the dedication. "It's going to be a lovely place for the veterans to move into and live."
Purchasing and renovating the home cost more than $700,000, but federal grant money provided through DuPage County helped make it possible, said Anita Dierks, executive director of Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans.
The grant came from a fund set aside specifically for projects planned on foreclosed properties, so supporting the shelter's home renovation was a natural fit, said Carrol Roark and Mary Keating of the county's community services department.
"Its proximity to the existing shelter allows for services to be provided," Keating said about the Robert J. Miller Home for Veterans. "The fact it was foreclosed makes the renovation that much better for the neighborhood."
The new home has three units with space for six veterans, including a disabled veteran and a woman, said Bob Adams, president of the shelter's board. Veterans chosen to live there will be former servicemen and women who have recovered from substance abuse or psychological issues and have found employment, but lack the funds to pay market-value rent.
Some veterans already have applied to live in the newly renovated Miller Home, and Dierks said the shelter's staff is reviewing the applications.
Staff will teach every veteran who lives in the home about the life and legacy of Miller, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2010. Miller's friend Bobby Kaye spoke to about 60 people gathered for the home's dedication Saturday and showed them a military-produced video of his parents, sister and friends discussing his desire to be a soldier and dedication to his country.
"That's how we keep his name alive," Kaye said, about the importance of telling Miller's story to veterans who will live in the home. "That's how we support our veterans."