OAKLAND – For years, Habitat for Humanity has been building homes for families unable to afford a house without the non-profit group’s assistance.
But when a ceremony was held last Saturday in the West Orange County town of Oakland, it took on added significance. It started with a Flag Raising ceremony at a special home that had been constructed at 19 Oakland Pointe Circle in Oakland.
“There were probably 200 to 250 people who showed up at the cermony,” said Cathy Haynes, a member of Blue Star Mothers and various military and veterans organizations. “There is a flag pole at the home of Sgt. Major Patrick Corcoran and a memorial plaque that is at the base of the flagpole commemorating the names of people who died in his command. So he has a constant reminder in honor of those who had fallen.”
The ceremony was really held in honor of Sgt. Major Corcoran. The house where the ceremony was being held had been built by West Orange Habitat for Humanity, which has a special project to honor and construct specially planned homes for disabled combat wounded veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The project is called Home at Last. Two previous HAL homes were constructed and given to military families now living in Oakland. The third home was given to severely injured Army Sergeant Major Corcoran, his wife Becky, and sons TJ and Patrick — all done in honor of Corcoran’s 23 years of military service.
“It’s a special project with Orange (County) Habitat to build a home for combat wounded, permanently disabled veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan war,” said Bill Criswell, who works with the West Orange Habitat for Humanity on the HAL project. “Our board of directors approved this in 2007. This is the third home we built.”
Corcoran, Criswell noted, “was in Afghanistan during an IED (improvised explosive device) explosion. He was very seriously injured. Fortunately he lived through it.”
Corcoran returned with his family in Central Florida, but as Criswell noted, Habitat wanted to be sure that the family never again had to worry about making a mortgage payment or being able to put a roof over their heads.
“Our goal is to turn the homes over to the veterans without a mortage,” Criswell said. “He’s paralyzed from the waist down. He’s married and has two chidlren, one boy age 12 and one boy age three. They’re physically moving into the house today.”
Haynes said this is a wonderful program, one that enables these veterans to live in one of Orange County’s most beautiful and historic communities.
“It’s ever so quiet and peaceful – one of the old American communites, like in Norman Rockwell,” she said of Oakland, which is on the Lake County line. “It’s stunning. It’s one of those hidden secrets – old oak trees with Spanish moss and stable neighborhoods.”
Home at Last, she added, is a great way to help veterans who risked their lives in defense of freedom.
“Habitat for Humanity will assist anyone with building a home,” she said. “But they’ve got certain restrictions. Home at Last is specifically for a wounded warrior from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and there is very little restriction on the part of the receiving family, not like there is with the general Habitat for Humanity families.”
Haynes added that Criswell deserved quite a bit of credit for making HAL a reality.
“He’s in his late 80s, and has been working diligently with the wounded veterans in the community, and this was the third home that was provided, mortgage-free, to a wounded warrior,” Haynes said. “Two of the homes had to be specifically built to address the injuries of the warrior. The first one is in an automated wheelchair. He lost both legs in his service, and partial use of his arm. The second warrior had leg injuries and head injuries, and the third is paralyzed below the waist and has head injuries, and now they are looking for a fourth warrior, willing to live in Oakland where they can provide them with a fabulous piece of ground.”
“I really don’t think we can do enough for them,” Criswell said of the veterans being aided by HAL. “Although we built for three Army veterans, this isn’t purely Army – it’s Army, Navy, Air, Marine Corp. We like to build for families. We want to give them an opportunity or restart their lives, and the commmuinity has been extremely supportive. The people really want to say thank you to these veterans who laid their lives on the line.”
Haynes said the community demonstrated that by turning out in such strong numbers for the dedication ceremony at Sgt. Corcoran’s new home.
“It was fabulous,” she said. “The National Guard representattives were there, Army Recruiting brought some vehicles out in support of the event, there were boy scouts, and there were UCF (University of Central Florida) ROTC cadets who did the color guard.”
It was also, she said, an opportunity to thank the caring planners, builders, and vendors for providing this specially built home.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.
This wonderful program – Home At Last – is looking for a OIF/OEF wounded warrior with a family to receive the fourth specially built home. The home will be designed to meet the needs of the warrior.
Provide contact info for a suggested family to the West Orange Habitat for Humanity (Orange County of Florida) Home at Last Project c/o Bill Criswell.