HOLLY SPRINGS - Cars stretched for a mile through the streets of the half-completed Forest Springs neighborhood as about 100 people gathered on Thursday to greet their newest neighbor.
With dozens of uniformed soldiers looking on, 14 shovel-armed dignitaries broke ground for the future home of U.S. Army Cpl. Cody Stanton.
Stanton, a Raleigh native, will be the fifth military veteran to move into a new house built by Operation: Coming Home, a local nonprofit.
Overwhelmed its the only word Ive got for it, the 21-year-old said as soon-to-be neighbors, fellow soldiers and a poodle in camouflage converged on him after the ceremony.
Stantons not one who loves the spotlight, his mother said, but he has grown used to it since he returned from Afghanistan last year. At the Walter Reed National Medical Center, Stanton is the focus of teams of doctors in surgery after surgery, part of a long recovery that began when an improvised explosive device sheared off his legs.
When Stantons out of the hospital, hes a magnet for well-wishers, who know him from media accounts or guess his story from his wheelchair.
He cant go through the mall without getting recognized, said his aunt, Becky Stanton, 49.
It may take a year or more before Stanton is ready to leave the hospital, where fellow service members keep him company several days a month. Stanton is a member of the 21st Military Police Co. from Fort Braggs XVIII Airborne Corps.
When hes ready for his next era, hell know where to begin: In Holly Springs, where a specially outfitted 2,500-square-foot home will be waiting.
Stanton plans to live with his service dog, while his family will be a short drive away in Raleigh. But that all seems a distant thought for the corporal as he pushes through a painful medical process.
He doesnt know what hed like to do when hes finished, or how hell decorate the new place, he said.
I think itll be a couple years, said Tim Cody, 49, an uncle who has documented Stantons post-combat life through a blog
. Hell be sitting on his back porch, reflecting. A new start
A new home can be the start of a new life for wounded veterans, according to Crissy Roberts Stanley, whose family lives in a house built by Operation: Coming Home in Fuquay-Varina.
So many, after, their hope is shattered. (A new home) takes your hope and sends it up high, Stanley said as she walked toward the groundbreaking ceremony for Stantons new house.
While the attention of reporters and neighbors can be overwhelming, she said, it gives veterans the chance to become advocates.
Rates of unemployment and homelessness among combat veterans are uncommonly high; while veterans make up only 7 percent of the countrys population, they are 13 percent of the nations homeless, and almost 13,000 recent veterans are homeless, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
And for veterans like Stanton, life with an injury requires special accommodations, such as extra-wide doorframes, that the family home often cant provide.
In the Triangle, Operation: Coming Home is quickening its pace as more soldiers return from Afghanistan, accelerating from a home built every other year to three in this year alone. The efforts led by the Triangle Veterans Association, the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County and Royal Oaks Building Group.
And as it grows, the nonprofit is drawing more and more builders, developers, construction suppliers and everyday people into its fold, all looking to make room for soldiers in Wake Countys growing suburbs.