Industry and community step up for Houston D-Day veteran
Clarence Sprague served in the invasion of Normandy, Battle of the Bulge.
A multi-agency effort that included monetary, product and labor donations from a variety of businesses and nonprofits is finishing a major home renovation for Clarence Sprague and his wife Juanita.
There are not many people like Sprague left in the world. The Houston-area 94-year-old is a World War II Army combat veteran who served in both the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge.
It’s an exclusive group with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimating that only 3% of the 16 million American men and women who served in WWII are still living, and the group is shrinking at a rate of nearly 350 veterans per day.
Sprague’s home suffered serious damage from Hurricane Harvey nearly two years ago. The combat veteran didn’t have the physical or financial ability to fix the house.
But as the 75th anniversary of the June 6 D-Day invasion approached the multi-agency effort stepped up.
The renovations included electrical work, Sheetrock, new furniture, and a full roof replacement. The roofing material was donated by major shingle manufacturer TAMKO Building Products, and the installation completed by Houston contractor Walton Roofing.
“This man is a hero, and it’s our great honor to offer this small ‘Thank you’ for his service by providing the roof over his head,” said David Humphreys, TAMKO president and CEO. “Honoring veterans is so deeply ingrained in our company’s culture – we support numerous veteran organizations and 15% of our workforce has served in the military.”
Companies and organizations that contributed to this effort along with TAMKO and Walton Roofing, include Prestige Homes and Development Co., the Breaker Box Boys, Galveston Bay Network, SERVE, Dynamic Munitions, Vets Galveston, Anderson Financial Group, Boots for Troops, Seabrook Rotary Club, Impac Fleet, Charred & Starred, Killen’s BBQ, Rainbow International, Galveston County Long Term Recovery Group, and the Houston Lady Lions.
This past weekend, the veteran’s nonprofit Boots for Troops recognized Sprague at their annual gala and surprised him during the ceremony with the news that The Home Depot was donating all new appliances for his newly-renovated home.
“To see everyone come out to support Clarence in this way… I just told him, ‘See, you’re not alone. Look at all this. It’s all for you’,” said Debra Marshall, community outreach director for the Houston Lady Lions nonprofit organization where the renovation effort began after Marshall visited Clarence’s home and saw the conditions he was living in.
“When I heard about Clarence, my first thought was, ‘I have to find a way to help this man’ – he is an American hero and, as a community, we owe it to him to step up and have his back,” said Jimmy Rogers, founder and president of nonprofit Boots for Troops, a group that donated monetarily for the renovation project and helped organize the appliance donation.
The project was a perfect fit for the Houston-area networking organization SERVE that connects veterans in need with a variety of nonprofits and services.
“I don’t even know how I got fortunate enough to be a part of this project,” said Andrea Thomas, SERVE secretary. “Clarence is the real deal – in his words, he’s ‘been to hell and back a couple times.’ He never expected anything like this and is just so grateful for everyone who came together to help.”
Sgt. Clarence Sprague served as 1st Assistant to General George S. Patton and survived both the historic 1944 invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge later that same year. He was awarded a marksmanship medal, a campaign medal with three bronze stars, the good conduct medal, and the World War II victory medal.
According to Sprague, Patton had promised to recommend him for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his outstanding service, but Patton died shortly after that, before he was able to make the official recommendation.
Sprague’s daughter – Nova Smith – grew up listening to her father’s stories about the war and General Patton, and said, after trying to get help to repair the veteran’s home for more than a year, she always knew her dad had something special, she just needed the right people to hear his story.
“Seeing him live out his last years – this next stage of his life are going to be really nice for him,” Smith said. “A less stressful life, not having to worry about the house, and being able to enjoy being in his home – that’s all I could ever want for him.”
The entire renovation project is expected to be completed by mid-June.
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