Operation Finally Home
From the Austin American-Statesman:
It looked and sounded a lot like Independence Day on Lakeside Drive here Tuesday, with the Lago Vista High School marching band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other patriotic songs, a flag-raising, Scouts, soldiers and dignitaries standing at a podium invoking God, country and sacrifice. The occasion was a much-anticipated homecoming for Augie Peña, who survived a 2009 Iraq deployment and then was struck by a drunken driver the next year while changing a friend’s tire. The accident paralyzed Pena, 24, who was attending college in Chicago at the time.
Sitting in his electric wheelchair, Peña accepted the keys to the 2,300-square-foot new brick home, built by Silverton Custom Homes and Henley Homes. And with some $200,000 in donated materials and labor rounded up through the efforts of Operation Finally Home — which has finished 32 houses in 16 states for wounded or disabled veterans or their spouses — Peña pays exactly nothing.
The land was donated. Even the taxes are covered for a couple of years, said Finally Home volunteer Lisa Miller. In a ceremony on his new front porch, Mayor Deane Armstrong presented Peña with the certificate of occupancy. He’ll live there with his mother — now his full-time caregiver — stepfather and 13-year-old brother.
Peña pronounced his new domicile — with hardwood floors, granite countertops, a spacious Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant bathroom and a wheelchair-level microwave “awesome” and said he remains in awe of the proverbial kindness of strangers.
A crowd of about 100 watched the midday ceremony and then stepped inside to ooh and aah over the house’s features. Many then walked across the street, where Firehouse Subs and Smokey Mo’s Bar-B-Q had a catered lunch. The event program requested no food or drinks in the house. It’s brand new, remember, and built by Americans who want to give returning veterans something more than a “thank you for your service” at the airport.