CULPEPER, Va. (WWBT) - A U.S. Marine Corps veteran will soon call Virginia home thanks to a national organization and the support from the Culpeper community.
Sergeant Thomas Brennan completed two tours to Iraq and one to Afghanistan during his nine years of active duty service.
However, in 2012 Brennan was forced to medically retire after suffering a traumatic brain injury in combat.
“It’s been a long journey,” Brennan said.
Tuesday, Brennan and his family broke ground on their custom-built, mortgage-free home thanks to the support from local construction companies through Operation FINALLY HOME.
“We work with communities, particularly the building community, to provide mortgage-free homes and home modifications to wounded, ill and injured veterans across the country,” said Executive Director Rusty Carroll with Operation FINALLY HOME.
Based in New Braunfels, Texas, the non-profit was established in 2005 with a mission to take the burden of a mortgage off some of our nation’s veterans.
"We've got roughly 250 homes that have been completed or in planning in over 30 states," Carroll said.
"Freedom isn't free,” said Anthony Clatterbuck, Founder & President of Graystone Homes. “It's one of the things that we enjoy because other folks give so we can have it."
Graystone Homes, Structural Building Components Association of the Capital Area and dozens of other supporters gave a hand in making this surprise a reality for the Brennan family.
Thomas and his family thought they were going through the preliminary interview process with Operation FINALLY HOME and the builder earlier Tuesday morning, but were shocked when local law enforcement, first responders and the Patriot Guard Riders escorted them to the property where their new home will sit.
"It was just one big surprise,” Brennan said. “The generosity and community that gathered here is incredible."
One that is also filled with fellow servicemen and women.
"There's a veteran around every corner in this area," said John Stamp, a retired combat veteran in the U.S. Army.
Stamp was one of the many motorcyclists who helped escort Brennan and his family to the property. He spoke briefly with the former sergeant following the groundbreaking, letting him know of the support system in the area.
“We, as a cohesive unit in the military, were a brotherhood,” Stamp said. “The hardest thing is getting out and not having that support system. That’s what we try to do, get these people in touch with [one another] and get that brotherhood feeling back.”
American flags were also posted along the property with messages from people across the nation who have contributed monetarily to the effort to get the Brennan’s their new home.
“They’ve written a scripture, a note of hope for a family they don’t even know,” Carroll said.
"It's an incredibly humbling experience,” Brennan said. “We never thought in a million years that we'd get selected and to be here today, it's just an incredible gift and we're just grateful."
While there’s no timeline for when the house will be complete, Carroll said the home will have amenities that will support the veteran.
“I think in the bedroom they’re going to sound proof the walls and go in and put black-out shades in the like so that the room will be cooler to deal with his migraines,” he added. “We’re also going to have wider hallways and doorways because he does have some nerve damage that’s going to continue to deteriorate his mobility over time.”
While the family will have to worry about that in the future, they won’t have to worry about their plans for a home.
"Thank you, deep down on behalf of my whole family,” Brennan said. “This is incredible and we greatly appreciate it."
"To know now that there's some level of certainty, that they can now start to focus on their own personal healing, physical healing, emotional healing, spiritual healing, it never gets old," Carroll said.
"It gives us hope," added Melinda Brennan.
"Yeah and just excited for the next chapter,” Brennan said. “This is going to be a good start for that."
For his service, Brennan received a Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat “V”, two Combat Action Ribbons and many more.
Since Brennan’s retirement, he’s returned to graduate school to pursue journalism where he created “The War Horse”, a non-profit newsroom focused on educating the public on Post-9/11 conflict and its impact from war and trauma.
The Brennan’s end goal was to move to Virginia.
For more information on Operation FINALLY HOME, click here.
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