In a few days, local retired U.S. Army Sgt. Bruce Messer Jr. and his wife Jessica will be able to rest easily in their dream home without concerns for their roof thanks to a Cincinnati-area contractor.
Before the Messers came to Hillsboro, Bruce served as a combat engineer, locating and disabling heavy explosives. Jessica, who served in the National Guard and in the army as a military police officer, was working in civilian law enforcement when the couple met.
“We met because her subordinates kept arresting my soldiers,” Bruce said. “I would get the phone call from the MP station, and it would be her saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got another one of your soldiers here,’ so I would have to go get them and sign the forms.”
The Messers have been married for 10 years.
Jessica told The Times-Gazette that their current house, located around 10 miles outside of Hillsboro, is their first home together.
“When they first medically retired me, I was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas,” Bruce said. “Trying to buy a house over the internet wasn’t practical — you’ve got to see it in person. We ended up finding a company, and we got a rental house in Grove City.”
“Our plan was just to stay there for a few years,” Jessica said. “Our daughter really loved the high school, so we decided to stay there until she graduated.”
After five years in Grove City, the Messers said they decided to look for a more permanent residence.
“We looked at homes north of Columbus, down in Jackson, Portsmouth, Athens — we looked everywhere,” Bruce said. “Being in the military and moving so much — we were done moving. We just wanted the perfect place to live off the rest of our lives.”
As they were about to sign on another house in Jackson, a new listing outside of Hillsboro popped up online.
“[Our realtor] met us here the next day and walked us through,” Bruce said. “Coming down the driveway, we fell in love. Once we got in here and we started walking around, we knew what each other was thinking, and we looked each other in the face and said, ‘This is it.’”
Over the last few years, the couple renovated parts of the home and began developing their property for livestock, including goats, ducks and chickens.
Early this year, the Messers’ home insurance provider sent a notice that the home’s roof was over 20 years old and needed to be updated or it would not be covered.
“It seems like every time something bad happens, more follows, and then you get that one bit of good that kind of makes up for it,” Bruce said.
While they were in the process of getting estimates from a variety of roofing contractors, Jessica found information about Purple Heart Homes, which assists veterans with a variety of housing needs.
Bruce applied. After he was selected, Purple Heart Homes connected the Messers with Deer Park Roofing in Cincinnati and Owens Corning, a national supplier.
Due to Covid, extensive tornado damage in the Dayton area, and supply distribution issues, Deer Park crews were unable to begin work on the Messers’ roof until Wednesday, though Owens Corning Area Sales Manager Steve Gooderson said representatives checked in to ensure their home would not suffer water damage during the delay.
According to Gooderson, Owens Corning has partnered with Purple Heart Homes over the last five years and donated the materials to update over 225 veterans’ roofs nationwide.
“For us as a manufacturer donating the shingles, it’s about peace of mind,” Gooderson said. “One of the largest investments into your home is to put a new roof on it. It’s pretty costly. [This program] helps give our veterans peace of mind to get a new roof, just like they give us peace of mind when they’re out protecting us.”
Local contractors donate the labor for these projects. Deer Park Roofing Vice President Matt Cox told The Times-Gazette that the Messers’ roof is the third they’ve done through the partnership.
“It’s great as a company to be able to do it, but one of the amazing things for us is how many guys volunteer to come out and do it,” Cox said. “And then the guys talk about it: ‘Hey, are we doing that again next year? I want to be a part of it.’”
For more information about Purple Heart Homes and its programs, visit purplehearthomesusa.org.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.