Community support sustains a veteran, his family and friends

Groundbreaking on free house for Cpl. Kevin Vaughan

By Brian Racow

Kevin Vaughan, a Marine corporal who was wounded in Afghanistan and received a hero's welcome when he returned home to North Merrick in 2012, will now receive a free house, courtesy of Building Homes for Heroes. Vaughan, his family and friends, local veterans, North Merrick firefighters, elected officials, student musicians, neighbors, supporters, and members of the media were among the 150 or so people on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday marking the start of construction on a two-story house on Little Whaleneck Road. Building Homes for Heroes, a Valley Stream nonprofit organization that built 17 houses for veterans last year and aims to complete 28 more this year, will give the house to Vaughan, according to Andrew Pujol, the charity's founder and president, and elected officials.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said the town was waiving building permit fees. She also said it would repave Little Whaleneck Road, which has its share of potholes.

A roadside bomb wounded Vaughan and four other Marines on Sept. 28, 2011, in Afghanistan. He underwent numerous surgeries, including the amputation of his left leg and the reconstruction of his right leg with screws and rods. He spent 15 months at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., before returning home to a parade in his honor, which hundreds of people attended.

The scene Tuesday morning on Little Whaleneck Road was reminiscent of March 9, 2012, the day Vaughan came home. The North Merrick Fire Department hoisted a giant American flag with two ladder trucks, Merrick American Legion Post 1282 members formed a color guard, Mepham High School musicians accompanied the ceremony, a priest gave an invocation, and local and state officials spoke, as did Vaughan and Pujol.

Vaughan said he had "never been so low, mentally and physically," as he was in the first weeks and months after he was wounded. But the surprise outpouring of community support that greeted him in North Merrick, he said, helped him begin a new chapter in his life. That day Vaughan had tears in his eyes, but Tuesday he was all smiles as he thanked those who rallied around him, particularly Building Homes for Heroes.

"This is the greatest day of my life," he said. "Having this home here is like winning the lottery, if not better."

Also on hand at the groundbreaking ceremony was Josh Williams, a Marine and an Afghanistan veteran who trained and fought alongside Vaughan and was wounded in the same bomb blast. Originally from Maryland, Williams is now rooming with Vaughan. Pat Vaughan, Kevin's mother, called Josh her "third son" as he joined Kevin, his brother Tom, father Jim, and Pat for a photograph.

"I'm ecstatic for [Kevin]," Williams said. "We look out for our brothers, so it feels like we're sharing this ... we pick each other up when we're down."

Kenneth Braun Sr., commander of the American Legion Post 1282, expressed pride that "the community backs up veterans when they come home." James O'Neill, vice commander of Post 1282, said that was not his and other veterans' experience after the Vietnam War, but that now "the tide has turned."

Hundreds of volunteers will complete the home under the direction of project manager Frank Meagher, a retired carpenter from Elmont, and contractor Doug Herman.

Cpl. Kevin Vaughan
Cpl. Kevin VaughanA ceremony Tuesday morning celebrated the start of construction on a Little Whaleneck Road house that the charity Building Homes for Heroes will give to Kevin Vaughan, a veteran of the War in Afghanistan, for free. Vaughan, who grew up in North Merrick, expressed many thanks to BHFH and the community, telling the crowd of about 150 people that it was "the greatest day of my life." - photograph by Bill Kelly/Herald Life

Cpl. Kevin Vaughan

Racow, Brian, "Community support sustains a veteran, his family and friends, Groundbreaking on free house for Cpl. Kevin Vaughan",,58444? page=1&content_source= (collected 9-13-2014)

Racow, Brian, "Community support sustains a veteran, his family and friends, Ground broke on free house for Cpl. Kevin Vaughan", Merrick Herald Life, 11 September 2014, pp. 1 & 13

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