The Herald Bulletin

April 18, 2013

Wounded warrior returns home

Community help needed to pave the way for Tim Senkowski

By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Tim Senkowski is coming home.

The wounded warrior from Anderson is wrapping up his year-and-a-half long stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Although Senkowski is doing well, he and his family face hurdles.

Senkowski, 30, was severely wounded by an improvised explosive device in October 2011, including the loss of both of his legs, while serving in Afghanistan as a member of the Army infantry with the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. He has been in recovery.

On Thursday, Senkowski will be surrounded by family as he is awarded his Calvary spurs in a special ceremony at Walter Reed.  He will also take part in the retirement ceremony that marks his departure from the Army.  On Monday, he is Indiana-bound.

Veterans organization The Path Home is orchestrating the construction of a home to accommodate the Senkowski family. That includes wife Erica, who has disabilities of her own stemming from rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and children Dusty and Embry.

The project is dependent on donations. Enough funding has been received so far for the land purchase. Construction of the home west of Edgewood has yet to begin, but the family is hopeful it will be complete by year’s end.

Limited options

In the interim, Senkowski and his family will be staying with Senkowski’s mother and stepfather, Tamra and JR Rigdon.

“We live in our garage to take care of them,” said Tamra. Still, in order to accommodate Tim’s new needs, the Rigdons’ small Anderson home requires a bathroom that is handicapped-accessible. That project was in the works — until this week.

That’s when Tamra learned that the funding for the bathroom addition fell through, leaving them with no good options for the bathroom before Tim arrives home.

“He’s got to crawl into it and he can’t take a shower in there,” said Tamra of the existing bathroom. She’s reaching out to the community, asking for monetary or material donations to help get the bathroom finished.

“We’ve got the labor. We’ve got the contractors to do it,” said Tamra. She’s also got the materials list for the bathroom, just no money to pay for it. The price tag is just shy of $7,000.

“I’m so beyond stressed, it’s unreal,” said Tamra.

The situation is complicated by income constraints that make simple day-to-day living a challenge. Tim will not begin receiving retirement pay for 90 days. Tamra lost her income after quitting her job to care for Tim.

“He’s going to be home next Monday,” said Tamra. Donations can be made to the PNC bank account set up for Senkowski.

Jay Ricker, founder and president of Anderson-based Ricker Oil Co., is a staunch supporter of Senkowski, having already raised about $20,000 towards Senkowski’s new home.

“I can’t think of anything that we donated to in years that is more important than this type of donation that touches your heart,” said Ricker. He noted that Senkowski suffered his injuries in defense of those at home.   “I don’t think there’s anything more important as a community.”

“We’re getting ready to make a $10,000 challenge donation,” said Ricker.

In the midst of all the struggles, Tamra is also juggling the management of the family’s recently established non-profit Wounded Warrior Homefront. Its purpose is to promote empowerment, social justice, cultivate leadership and enhance the health and well-being of the military, their family members and those who serve in emergency services agencies.

“My kids started this whole thing,” laughed Rigdon. “God love ‘em.”