APEX — Retired Army Sgt. Jeffrey Lynch tells his friends he’s not a hero.
The real heroes are the soldiers who don’t make it back from battle, he says.
But his friends, his family and now a national housing company say otherwise.
On Friday, Meritage Homes gave a 2,066-square-foot home off Bell’s Lake Road to Lynch. The donation was organized by Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that supports military families.
The experience was strange for Lynch, who lives in Fayetteville. Many of his fellow soldiers are deserving of such praise but aren’t around to receive it, he said.
Despite his modest attitude, 29-year-old Lynch went through a lot during two tours in Iraq.
In 2006, the Humvee Lynch was riding in was ambushed. It struck a telephone pole, and part of the pole went into Lynch’s abdomen.
The Hawaii native later returned to combat, and was wounded again in 2007. This time, he had to learn to walk and talk again.
Tragedy struck closer to home the following year. Lynch and his wife had a son, LJ, who died shortly after he was born.
On top of it all, Lynch suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Each day is a battle.
On Friday, Lynch and his wife Christy and their 4-year-old daughter Catelyn walked through their new home, taking it all in.
“I still don’t believe it,” Lynch said, his eyes watering as he thanked a group of organizers standing in his new living room. “I can’t thank you enough.”
“It feels like we’re gonna wake up and it’ll all be gone,” his wife said. “Things like this don’t happen to people like us.”
Their friend, Mike Kuchinsky, is filming a documentary about the mental effects of military veterans. He said few are as deserving of praise as Lynch.
“He’s an amazing man, considering what he’s been through,” Kuchinsky said.
Lynch is helping Kuchinsky with the documentary. They hope it can be used as a training tool for veterans with PTSD. They note that an average of 22 veterans a day commit suicide as a result of PTSD or other brain injuries.
The project is already doing what it was intended to do, Kuchinsky said, because it’s given Lynch something to think about and work on – an essential part of PTSD treatment.
“Soldiers need a mission,” Kuchinsky said. “Their symptoms get worse when they don’t have one.”
Kuchinsky knows Lynch won’t have any problems devoting his time to something: “Jeff’s a giver,” he said.
It was only right that someone gave back to Lynch, said Ryan Wells, division president for Meritage Homes.
“It was an honor,” he said.
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht