Boyd Armstrong, 77, sat in a chair on his front porch. A tear ran down his cheek.
The Navy veteran had just received a U.S. flag that was flown above the Capitol in Washington.
His daughter Teresa, 38, sat beside him, a cloth wrapped around her bald head.
Strokes have largely kept him from walking, though he gets around with the help of a cane. Teresa needs a walker, herself. A softball-sized brain tumor has limited her mobility.
“We take care of each other,” Boyd Armstrong said.
On Friday community volunteers took care of them. Over the coming weeks they’ll do about $10,000 in home improvements.
With the help of his Community Action Committee caseworker and the Office on Aging — Project LIVE, Boyd Armstrong’s home was presented to Rebuilding Together Knoxville as a candidate for its 2015 U.S. Veteran’s project, sponsored by Fifth Third Bank. The work comes ahead of Veterans Day on Wednesday.
The two live in a modest home in the Mascot community of Knox County.
On Friday their house was bustling.
One volunteer ran a circular saw that chomped through two-by-fours, another cut angles with a jigsaw.
Other people wiped down siding, and popped nails into boards with hammers.
Several volunteers worked on an in-progress ramp to the front porch of the house. It’ll help the Armstrongs get in and out of their front door easier.
There are a lot of doctor’s appointments inbetween.
On Friday a few politicians stood on their porch for a short presentation, including a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan who brought the flag for Armstrong.
After a few remarks, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett leaned over to Teresa Armstrong, who sat on her wheeled walker, and gave her a peck on the cheek.
“Now, don’t tell my wife,” Burchett said.
The Armstrongs are on a fixed income — his Social Security and a small pension. Medical expenses are a constant worry for them.
And the bill totals are hard to predict because of Teresa’s cancer.
Beyond medical bills, according to Rebuilding Together, they do not have the money to repair and make accessibility improvements to their home. That medical and financial situation helped them qualify for the volunteer project.
Fifth Third has funded $230,000 in similar work for veterans in 18 states this year, including more than 1,000 scholarships for continuing education for veterans.
In addition to the wheelchair ramp, the home is expected to receive floor repairs, new kitchen cabinets, and cleaning and painting work.
“They got that ramp, so we can get out of the house real easy,” Armstrong said.
“It’ll help us get to the mailbox a whole lot easier. It feels so good.
“I really appreciate it.”