Published: Nov 10, 2010 02:00 AM
Modified: Nov 08, 2010 08:26 PM
FUQUAY-VARINA - The cold rain that came down Thursday morning as former Marine Corps Sgt. Stanley A. Roberts received the keys to his new house felt like a blessing falling from the sky.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Roberts, the guest of honor at a party to celebrate the completion of his house, a gift from Operation Coming Home. More than 200 people came, including a Marine Corps band, 100 uniformed Marines, a college dance troupe, high school cheerleaders, a busload of fifth-graders and dozens of volunteers who had worked on the home. There were military tanks and fireworks.
Roberts, 29, who was severely injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in June 2007, is the second wounded soldier to receive a house from Operation Coming Home. The group completed its first project in 2008.
The all-volunteer operation is a joint effort of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County Charitable Foundation and Triangle Real Estate and Construction Veterans, a group of former service members now in the building industry.
The work relies on the time, skills and gifts of hundreds of people. Nearly everything in the home that Roberts and his wife, Crissy, will share with their four young children was a gift, from the land it sits on to the first week's groceries stocked in the donated cupboards. The labor that built the home was donated as well.
Rich Van Tassel, owner of Royal Oaks Building Group and chairman of the board of Operation Coming Home, built the house on a lot given by Gaines & Co.
"We want to make a difference in the lives of soldiers who have earned this," Van Tassel said before the ceremony began.
The group also paid for a last-minute ticket to fly former Sgt. Daniel Kim from New York to Raleigh-Durham International Airport in time for the event. Kim served alongside Roberts at Camp Lejeune and was with him when he was injured. Until Thursday, the last time Kim had seen his buddy was when Roberts was being loaded into a med-evac helicopter.
It was Kim who tied the tourniquet around Roberts' injured leg to stop his bleeding, likely saving his life.
It happened on Roberts' third tour in Iraq, during a routine reconnaissance patrol. The unit went under a bridge and hit a homemade bomb.
Roberts began checking on his crew, not realizing he was injured until he noticed that he kept falling to the right.
Today, Roberts maneuvers with crutches. His single-story home in Fuquay-Varina is outfitted with wide doorways in case he ever needs to use a wheelchair, and has grab bars and other disability accommodations.
Roberts and his family have been living in Cary. He got his final discharge from the Marines last week and is pursuing a bachelor's degree in information technology.
Roberts thanked the assembled for their support and for giving him "the opportunity to do something for my family I've intended to do for so long."