Operation: Coming Home

MORE THAN 35,000 men and women face life-altering injuries after serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As a result, a decision that most of us take for granted — where to live — can seem overwhelming.

Sgt. Stan Roberts, who lost a leg while serving the last of three tours with the Marines in Iraq, knows this uncertainty firsthand.

“Once I returned from combat, my wife and I were unsure of how to find a handicap-accessible house along with plenty of other concerns,” he said. “So when we won, we were really blown away. It’s been a blessing.”

In 2010, Roberts and his wife were given the keys to Hero Home II, a Fuquay-Varina home built by volunteers with Operation: Coming Home (OCH).

The group was established in 2007 by the Triangle Veterans Association (TVA) and members of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County to provide handicap-accessible houses for families of severely wounded veterans in the Triangle, at no cost to the recipients. Each house costs an average of $250,000 to build, and about 95 percent of the materials are donated by builders, vendors, contractors and other individuals in the community.

So far, seven homes — with two more planned to break ground later this year — have been built and donated to wounded veterans.

Veterans are selected through an interview process conducted by the board members of OCH. Once chosen, recipients are given a budget and presented with the opportunity to design every aspect of the house to fit their specific needs.

“My favorite part of the house is a tie between my uniform shelf, and my shower,” said Roberts. “It includes a bench and two shower heads. One is detachable, so if I get tired I can sit down.”

The houses are built by professionals, and OCH is always looking for contractors and vendors to volunteer their time to build them. For those who cannot help professionally, monetary donations help the organization as well.

Tim Minton, executive vice president of Operation: Coming Home and the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, encourages individuals to start fundraisers or donate building materials.

Once a house is completed, there are two ceremonies conducted: the groundbreaking ceremony and key giveaway. At each ceremony, OCH invites 400 to 500 people from the community to celebrate with the home’s recipients.

“It’s amazing to see their faces when we hand them the key. They really are in disbelief,” said Minton. “This is our small thank you for their large service.”

This fall, Operation: Coming Home will host its first Wounded Warriors Gala to raise funds for upcoming projects. The gala will be on Sept. 6 from 6 to 7 p.m., at the Raleigh Convention Center. Contact Connie Inggs at cinggs@usamilvets.org for more information.

To find out more about Operation: Coming Home or to make a donation, go to operationcominghome.com.

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