What happens when dozens of fire fighters – and a handful of police officers and others – come together for nine straight days in the woods along the Tennessee-Georgia border?

A house gets built from the ground up for the young family of a wounded veteran.

For nine days in May, some 40 fire fighters joined 52 others in building a new house for Jason Smith, who was severely wounded while serving overseas, his wife and their new baby girl. The project was organized and led by a new charitable organization, “A Soldier’s Journey Home,” run by Mike Fitzpatrick, former president of Frankfort, KY Local 1017.

This is not the first time these brothers and sisters have come together to swing hammers, and it won’t be the last. The group has met informally over the years, bound  together by 9/11 and an urge to help those who signed up to defend our country following that fateful day. They served together in disaster relief projects, including post-Hurricane Katrina.

“The glue that binds  us all – were are mostly fire fighters, but also police officers and a few craftsmen – is an urgent need to help those who saw what happened on 9/11 and then went off to defend us overseas,” Fitzpatrick says.

In 2012, Fitzpatrick and his brother-in-law met a young wounded veteran from Guntersville, Alabama, in need of a home that was more accessible for him. So they built him a home and gave it to him.

Now a formal charitable organization, A Soldier’s Journey Home has built and gifted Jason Smith, his wife and baby girls a $350,000 fully accessible home in Ringgold, Georgia, just outside Tennessee. Chattanooga, TN Local 820 President Jack Thomson and Recording Secretary Jake Case spearheaded the effort to build Smith’s new home.

The Smith family will never make a house payment so they can focus their resources on raising their daughter.

With each new build, the organization has grown in numbers. The Smith family home near Chattanooga was built by fire fighters from nine states. Now 75 people – mostly IAFF members – have signed up to cash in vacation days to build a brand new home for the next deserving U.S. service member.

“It is a life-changing experience. It is a brotherhood in and of itself,” says Fitzpatrick.