Bedford veteran Gunnery Sgt. Bernie Ruchin enjoying project from Building Dreams for Marines

If he’d been dashing through a muddy foxhole during a battle in World War II or in the Korean War, the need for speed surely would have propelled Gunnery Sgt. Bernie Ruchin into a safe zone without further ado. Nowadays, the retired Marine, who will be 90 years old in November, knows nobody is shooting at him.

All that was dented was his pride and his kneecaps when he caught an edge on a stair at his Bedford home and fell on his knees. The floor offered a landing zone of carpet softer than gravel but he came back from the hospital with a cast on his leg. He was laid up for seven months.

A full-body shower was prohibited because of the cast. He said he craved watering the entirety of the more than six feet of height that is Bernie Ruchin.

That’s when Building Dreams for Marines, based in Nashua, did some recon and came in with a plan for a redesign of Ruchin’s bathroom. A complete renovation, highlighted with the removal of a heavy bathtub, showcased the installation of a step-in shower with accents of marble.

Michael Browning and craftsmen from Cobb Hill Construction, assisted by local Marines from Bravo Company, completed the job, a $15,000 value, in a few weeks. The project was deemed by Ruchin as first rate.

Ruchin’s handicap-accessible shower and bathroom installation was the fifth project completed in New Hampshire by Building Dreams for Marines, a nonprofit focused on life-enhancing home modifications provided free of charge to Marines whose service has left them with physical limitations.

Miriam Brown, who has shared Ruchin’s life for many years, said Ruchin is over six feet tall but that when he puts on his uniform, he grows to at least six-foot, six-inches. Enduring a bath in a bucket during his time in the leg cast was a mission that the lanky Marine found unappealing. Ruchin drew a parallel to his wartime bathing experiences, frequently confined to a quick splash-a-roo with water sloshed out of his helmet.

The construction at the couple’s home soon was underway. The volunteers took away the bath tub. Tiles were smashed and removed. Drywall dust flew. Ruchin’s fellow Marines from Bravo Company 1st Bn. 25Th Marines did much of the demolition work.

Ruchin, who during his time in the military received his share of wounds and awards, called the project accomplished by Building Dreams for Marines a blessing.

“They’re family,” Ruchin said. “What they did for me is a blessing.”

Building Dreams for Marines welcomes eligible Marines to apply for similar, or more extensive modifications of their homes. The applicant must be a New Hampshire resident, an honorably discharged Marine, and have physical mobility issues.

Volunteers from all parts of the state help complete the projects undertaken by Building Dreams for Marines. General contractors, electricians, masonry experts, plumbers and other craftsmen, along with those adept at public relations, social media, administrative office skills, fundraising and grant writing are sought for future projects.

The ribbon cutting on May 16 at the home of Ruchin and Brown was attended by local and state dignitaries. Marines from B Co 1st Bn, 25th Marines, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, former N.H. state Sen. Gary Lambert, former Bedford Town Councilor Bill Dermody, members of the Bedford Police and the Bedford Fire departments, along with many other guests. Rave reviews abounded for Ruchin’s new bathroom and the spacious, modern shower.

Ayotte and Ruchin faced each other as Ayotte commented at a podium set up beneath a large canopy that shielded several dozen guests from some intermittent raindrops.

He listened as she described Ruchin’s wholehearted embrace of the Marines and those who serve in all branches.

“You’ve touched so many lives,” Ayotte said. “Not only (are you) a decorated veteran of WWII but then went on to defend our nation in the Korean War, then went on to serve in the New York Police. You are a true patriot. Thanks you for everything.”

Ruchin told Ayotte and everyone in attendance that he was thankful for their help and appreciative of their recognition of veterans. He added that he also was thankful for Miriam.

“I’ve got a lot to be thankful for,” Ruchin said. “When a Marine goes down, 10 guys run to help him up.”

For more information on Building Dreams for Marines call 1-800-858-6613 or visit online: www.building