Home at last: Perham's Schmitz family gets the keys to new custom home

On Saturday, Dec. 4, friends and family of Lucas Schmitz gathered at his new Homes for Our Troops customized home to watch as he and his wife and kids were presented the key to their new lives.

The Schmitz family stands in front of their new flag pole as "America the Beautiful" plays. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

After several months of construction, the much-anticipated custom home made for injured Perham veteran Lucas Schmitz and his family is complete.

On Saturday, Dec. 4, friends and family of Schmitz gathered at the home to watch as he and his wife and kids were presented the key to their new lives.

Speakers with Homes for Our Troops — a nonprofit that helps construct customized homes for post-9/11 veterans — said the Schmitz home is the best home they've built yet, out of a previous 300. The home was constructed by Hemmelgarn Builders of Perham.

Thanks to the home's custom design, Schmitz now won't have to worry about stairs, or hallways that aren't wide enough for a wheelchair.

Supplied with coffee from the Nest and gathered under a heated tent, the public gathered outside the new home to listen to the Homes for Our Troops speakers and others, including the Schmitz family and Lucas Schmitz himself.


Lucas Schmitz speaks to the crowd who came to the key ceremony for his new home. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

Schmitz thanked everyone involved in the home's construction.

"As an individual, I've suffered," he said the the crowd. "I've wanted to be independent. Sometimes in order for someone to be independent, they need help from others. That's what Homes for Our Troops has done."

Schmitz had initially turned down the offer from Homes for Our Troops because, as he said, sometimes he wants to forget what happened, and he values his independence. In 2005, Schmitz — who was serving as an infantryman — went to Iraq with the Second Combined Arms Battalion of the 34th Infantry Division. A year later, he lost his leg after stepping on an IED. Most homes aren't built for people who use wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs, so this custom home will make everyday living a little easier for him.

"It's very good for me to know that people are thinking of the sacrifice that many have given," he said. "Our community is a great community. There's no place out there like it."

As Saturday's program came to a close, attendees walked to the front of the home, where the American flag was raised and "America the Beautiful" was performed. Then, the Schmitz family was handed the key to the door, and they cut a gold ribbon in front before rushing inside to take a look. There were big smiles on all their faces, and the kids shouted with joy and excitement as they got a first look at their new lives.


The Schmitz family cuts the ribbon in front of their brand new home (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

Afterward, community members were given tours of the house, with cake and refreshments offered.

To learn more about Homes for Our Troops, and to make a donation toward construction of customized homes for veterans, visit .

The Schmitz family changes the Homes for our Troops flag to the American flag. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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