Building Homes for Heroes showed its wholehearted appreciation this Veterans Day by gifting four mortgage-free homes to four Purple Heart recipients nationwide in four days – Marine Corps Corporal Kevin Vaughan, Private First Class Mason Steill, Army Specialist Justin Gulde and Marine Corps Sergeant Brandon Stevenson, in New York, Arizona, Nevada and Florida, respectively.
The injured heroes who courageously served their country in combat were each honored with homecoming celebrations, where they received the keys to their new homes.
The festivities began with a patriotic ceremony and parade in Long Island, New York in honor of Corporal Vaughan on Saturday, November 7. With the backdrop of a giant American flag hung by two firetrucks overhead, hundreds of Boy, Girl and Cub Scouts, local dignitaries, volunteers, community members and the marching band of Corporal Vaughan’s high school alma mater packed the street of the wounded veteran’s new home.
Vaughan was injured in Afghanistan in September of 2011 when the vehicle he was traveling in for a combat mission struck an 80-pound improvised explosive device. The blast severely injured six marines, including Vaughan, who required a left-leg amputation and 15 months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center.
Some 2,500 miles away on the same day, the celebration to formally welcome Private First Class Steill into his new home began in Maricopa County, Arizona. Private Steill lost sight in his right eye and suffered chronic facial nerve pain and persisting memory and cognitive impairment from an explosion while in combat. As he surveyed his new home, the veteran wore a giant smile as he was set to embark on the next chapter of his life.
On Monday, November 9, it was Army Specialist Justin Gulde’s turn to receive a new home in Las Vegas, Nevada. Specialist Gulde suffered a brain injury and permanent nerve damage from an enemy rocket that landed feet away from him on Thanksgiving Day in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan.
Gulde’s new home was designed to accommodate his injuries, including custom faucets, handles and rails. An outdoor play area was built for his 8-year-old son, Darien. Watching his son play on the equipment, Specialist Gulde said, was his favorite part of the day.
The homecomings concluded in Brevard County, Florida on November 10, when Marine Corps Sergeant Brandon Stevenson received his new home. In Afghanistan in 2010, Sergeant Stevenson’s military vehicle struck multiple improvised explosive devices, causing a serious concussion, lower back and neck injuries, and a traumatic brain injury. Surrounded by friends and family, the homecoming also celebrated the Marine Corps’ 240th birthday with a cake cutting ceremony. Sergeant Stevenson will live in his new home with his wife Kelley and his dog, Jack Daniels.
The four homes bring Building Homes for Heroes’ 2015 total to 26. The nonprofit organization plans to gift five more by the end of the year, with its sights set on gifting 35 homes in 2016.