The “Operation Finally Home” house under construction at North Point for an injured Marine Corps veteran and his wife is not going to be a one-time venture, the president of the West Texas Home Builders Association said Monday morning.
“I don’t anticipate this being the last one,” said Robert Wood at a dedication ceremony for the house now being built for retired Cpl. Anthony Villarreal and his wife, Jessica.
Wood said support from many sectors of the community — builders, vendors, financial institutions, association members and non-members — has been outstanding, with plenty of opportunities for community assistance.
“I hope we will not tax anyone so much that they feel that can’t do this again,” Wood added.
The builders’ decision to get involved with the project was almost a spur-of-the-moment decision on the part of several WTHBA members at last fall’s
Sunbelt builders’ show, when they heard a presentation by Dan Vargas, a lead spokesman for the Finally Home movement.
The effort was started by Houston builder Dan Wallrath with support from the state’s Bay Area Builders Association. Nationally, Operation Finally Home has built more than 20 houses for vets who’ve been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It started with a dinner discussion among several Lubbock builders, and a commitment to make it happen.
“The next morning, we went to their booth and said, ‘We want to do this,’” Wood said. “No hesitation.”
And “no hesitation” has been a running theme with the project’s progress.
McDougal Construction president David Miller offered a lot at North Pointe, and then McDougal Companies chief executive officer Delbert McDougal “agreed without any question or discussion. No hesitation,” Wood said.
The house will be turned over to the Villarreals fully furnished after the Parade of Homes ends June 26.
Wood said: “He left himself on the battlefield. He paid for this house on the battlefield.”
It was a brief, emotional event honoring the 2004 Coronado High School graduate whose life was forever changed in Afghanistan in June 2008 when a roadside bomb exploded near the vehicle he was riding in. His injuries included the loss of part of his right arm and several fingers on his left hand, as well as severe burns to his face.
One of the emotions that played through the crowd was a good laugh at a kind of reunion between Villarreal and U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock. The two men had met in 2007. Villarreal was serving in Iraq at the time and Neugebauer was in-country on a congressional trip.
The two had lunch, said the congressman.
“I hope some day I could be in Congressman Neugebauer’s shoes,” Villarreal said. “It would be doing the same thing I did in Iraq and Afghanistan, trying to make things right.”
Neugebauer, who presented a U.S. flag that has flown over the Capitol and a 19th Congressional District appreciation coin to the Villarreals, said he “wasn’t surprised that the home builders stepped up to the plate. That’s the way people in West Texas are.”
The congressman pointed out that the military life is “a team sport. Alongside our soldiers are their family members.”