CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Stephen Maguire was permanently blinded in combat nearly 49 years ago while serving as a U.S. Army Ranger in Vietnam.
The moment, which he describes as "swift and savage," drastically changed the course of his life.
"I was wounded a couple times before," he said. "Then I got wounded real badly, and that ended my career. During recovery, when I couldn't see, walk or move at all, I asked myself, 'What do I do now?'"
He and his wife of 48 years, Susan, moved west from Oklahoma last year to retire in the Buford area between Cheyenne and Laramie, seeking solitude from the harsher urban terrain. But they soon realized the home they purchased did not meet Stephen Maguire's mobility needs. He had difficulty navigating the steep terrain and rocks leading to their front door, forcing him to walk all the way around the couple's large A-frame stucco home.
As the two remodeled, multiple trips to The Home Depot led Susan Maguire to a Home Depot Foundation service project for veterans.
"His wife originally reached out to us," said Jessica Witte, The Home Depot assistant store manager. "He has a long history of helping veterans help themselves, but was really struggling to get around where he was living. Once we got the OK, I reached out, and our staff volunteered on the sign-up sheet."
On Wednesday, dozens of employees from the local Home Depot store, with the help of American Legion Post 109 in Windsor, Colorado, built exterior stairs and a pressure-treated wooden fence on the property to help the combat veteran live more independently.
"We came here because people in Wyoming are a lot like me," Stephen Maguire said. "They're very independent, and having these stairs is going to help me achieve that."
The project was part of The Home Depot's eighth annual Celebration of Service campaign to improve the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families.
Since 2011, the foundation has served more than 40,000 homes and facilities across the country.
Stephen Maguire said he was never one to wallow and, following recovery, enjoyed decades of success in a related field and a happy marriage with his wife. He was a Ranger Hall of Famer, and even published a number of books detailing his time in Vietnam.
"I'm not the kind of a guy that feels sorry for myself," he said. "Bad things happen, and I decided to use the skills I still had, since my brain was intact. We do a lot of shopping at Home Depot, though, and I felt like it was OK to accept it. We really love it out here, and this will make things a lot easier."
The additions will likely help more than just Stephen Maguire, too.
"In the future, we would like to invite active-duty combat vets with their families to come out here and relax," Susan Maguire said. "They could ride the horses out to Curt Gowdy State Park, and use it as a sort of getaway."
Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com