Spectrum employee Paul Girouard paints a flag pole in front of Richard Houle’s home on Ferry Road in Lisbon on Saturday morning. Spectrum and Rebuilding Together L/A partnered to make repairs to the Vietnam veteran’s home so he could continue to live there. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

LISBON — A quiet neighborhood on Ferry Road was buzzing with the sounds of saws, hammers, nail guns and laughter Saturday morning as more than 50 volunteers helped repair the home of Vietnam War veteran Richard Houle. 

When Houle came home to Lewiston from his second tour in Vietnam, Americans’ attitude toward those soldiers was one of ostracism. While discouraged and saddened at the negative reception for just doing his job, Houle set that chapter in his life aside and went to work as a carpenter and plumber before being hired as a welder at Bath Iron Works. Health concerns from exposure to hazardous breathing conditions forced him to retire from BIW. 

“I didn’t want no handouts or an excuse to stop working,” he said, so he trained to become an oil service technician for a local company before starting his own service technician business. 

He bought land on Ferry Road in Lisbon and built a garage to house his equipment. A year later he expanded the garage and began building his “forever home” where he raised two daughters. 

His tours in Vietnam slogging through the jungles carrying a large machine gun and being shot in both legs ruined his back, but the spirit and drive that made him a heroic Marine allowed him to work through the pain, he said. 

However, time has left him unable to physically or financially keep up with routine maintenance on the home he built more than 40 years ago. 

Thanks to a partnership between two giants in the business and nonprofit sectors, Spectrum and Rebuilding Together, the Spectrum Housing Assist program connects with local chapters of the nonprofit in the 41 states Spectrum services to find deserving homeowners in need of help so they can live in a safe and comfortable environment. 

Vietnam veteran Richard Houle, second from left, shakes hands with state Sen. Jeff Timberlake, R-Lisbon, as Lisbon Town Manager Diane Barnes, second from right, and Houle’s daughter Jessica Barry, left, watch Saturday. Volunteers from Spectrum and the Lewiston-Auburn chapter of Rebuilding Together, partnered to make major repairs to Houle’s house. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

When Houle’s daughters heard about the Spectrum initiative their fears of having to move their father to a veterans home were relieved. 

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would ever happen,” daughter Jessica Barry said. “This means so much to me and my dad.” 

The work included a new deck, ramp and roof and repairs to two flag poles — U.S. and U.S. Marine Corps  — that are centerpieces in his front yard. Houle saluted as the flags were raised at sunset. 

Another help to Houle on Saturday was a new power chair delivered by Bedard Pharmacy and Medical Supplies of Auburn. However, finding it was too small for his 12-year-old dog to sit comfortably with him, the company decided to swap it for another model and color. “Anything but brown,” Houle laughed. “I don’t mind and am thankful but since we are going to swap it out anyway, can I get a different color?” 

In addition to the rebuilding project, the volunteers set up a booth in the Town Office parking lot Saturday morning to give away dozens of  free Safe & Healthy Home Kits, which included a first aid kit, weather alert radio, smoke alarm, LED night light. 

Before the work began, Heidi Vandernbouck, New England senior communications manager for Charter Communications Inc., the second-largest cable operator in the United States by subscribers, thanked everyone for helping with the project. 

To learn more about the project, apply for help, donate or volunteer, visit rebuildingtogetherla.org. 

George Greenwood, right, a member of the Lewiston-Auburn chapter of Rebuilding Together, hands a free home safety kit to a homeowner at the Lisbon Town Office on Saturday morning. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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