Jason Nielson can get around pretty well, but managing big projects around the house can be quite challenging for the husband and father of three.
Nielson, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, suffered a severe injury while deployed overseas. As a military police officer with the Arizona National Guard, he was deployed to Iraq in February 2005 to train and manage local Iraqi police officers. It was there, 10 months into his deployment, that he was shot by a sniper and paralyzed.
He spent several months receiving inpatient care first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and then at a hospital in Virginia before returning to Arizona in 2006.
The road to recovery was a long, painful one and continues to remain a challenge for Jason, his wife, Krista, and their three children, now 17-year-old Devin, 8-year-old Hailey and 5-year-old Riley.
"Honestly to this day, he's still working to get back the endurance and strength," Krista said.
There were many times, Jason said, that he was just angry at life and wanted to give up. But his family kept him fighting.
"Not giving up made me challenge what they told me – that I'd never walk again," he said.
And while he still continues physical therapy, he did walk again within three years.
The family moved to Lincoln in August 2006. The cool temperatures in the First State were more conducive to Jason's recovery.
"We just needed a change and wanted a better life for our kids," he said.
It was their son, Devin, 10 at the time, who had a large influence on the move. He was staying with relatives stationed at the Dover Air Force Base while Jason was recovering from his injury.
"I had never been to Delaware before, but Devin did really well in school [in the Lake Forest School District], and we wanted to move him back to a school where he had done well," Jason said. "He had gone to school here for most of the school year, so we decided to move out here."
The family has tried hard to move past the injury, but it will always remain a part of their story. And it was very recently that they began a chapter they never expected to be written.
Krista and Jason received a call a few months ago from Benjamin Moore, a national paint manufacturer that runs a nationwide Color Care Across America campaign to recognize wounded veterans. The family's home had been chosen by the company to receive a full color paint makeover. The couple was told that the company, and a local contractor, would be coming to them to paint the home's entire interior.
Page 2 of 2 - "We were shocked," Krista said. "It's just amazing what they're doing for veterans and their families."
Benjamin Moore and contractors from Fussy Painting, based in Newark, spent two days last week, March 27-28, painting. And the Neilson family welcomed them with open arms.
"They have been so nice and helpful," Krista said. "We are so excited and thankful for what they are doing, and the kids love it. They got to pick the colors for the room – and of course they picked pink, purple and blue."
Ray Powell, sales manager for Benjamin Moore, said the company began the Color Care campaign last year working with homeless veterans and this year decided to recognize specific veterans who had been wounded in battle.
"I think, personally, we recognize our veterans and we thank them for their service when we see them out and about, but sometimes talk is cheap and this is a chance to put your money where your mouth is and actually do something for them," Powell said. "You can actually show your appreciation instead of just saying it."
The painters on site painted the walls in every room, 75 percent of the trim throughout the home, and the ceiling in the area that contains the living room and kitchen.
On Thursday, you could find Jason and Krista laughing and joking with the group.
"The family has been very nice and accommodating and very appreciative of what we're doing," Powell said. "They've been great."
Also excited about the project was Gary Bechard Jr., owner of Fussy Paints, which provided the painters for the project.
"It feels great," Bechard said. "I'm very happy that they asked us to be part of this and help out. I would definitely do this again. In fact, I hope they call us for the next one."
As for the Nielsons, Jason said his family has been doing quite well the last year and he and Krista are hopeful for the future.
"It's truly a blessing to have people like this, complete strangers, who want to give back and show their support," Krista said. "And they do an amazing job."