Friday, September 30, 2011
Returning soldier rewarded with free home in Celina
Justin Feagin was selected by the Texas Sentinel Foundation to receive the mortgage-free home.
United States Army Sgt. Justin Feagin was just 13 years old when he witnessed the live television coverage of 9/11. It was through witnessing those terrorist attacks that he was inspired to join the military three short years later, right after high school.
The decision was a hard one for Feagin's parents to swallow at first, but one neither of them argued.
"He was committed from day one," said Feagin's father, Bill. "He knew the odds."
But when the Collin County native was wounded last year while heading up an Afghan Border Police unit, his family's nightmares became a reality as they rallied together to bring the 23-year-old home for good. Feagin was hit by an IED that cost him his left foot, ruptured his ear drum, several broken bones, and numerous deep shrapnel lacerations.
"It was a nightmare in every way imaginable," said Feagin's mother, Sharry.
For his service, Feagin was selected by the Texas Sentinel Foundation to receive a brand new, mortgage-free home thanks to the concerted effort of the Collin County Association of REALTORS (CCAR) and a multitude of fundraisers and community contributors in and around Collin County.
Led by CCAR President Mal Smith, the project has encouraged collaboration from many stewards in Collin County since its first fundraiser in June, engaging everyone from subcontractor to realtor to soccer mom. Over $110,000 was raised over the past few months to purchase the home, sold by Highland Homes for about half of its true worth.
Once the home in Melissa is built, Feagin -- along with his wife Kayla and their 3-year-old son Tyler -- will aptly call the house located on Patriot Drive in the Liberty subdivision home.
Kayla spoke on behalf of her husband at a groundbreaking ceremony held Sept. 24, as Feagin was called back to San Antonio where the family is currently stationed. The move to Collin County and into their new home at the end of the year is somewhat bittersweet since their plans to "tough it out" to retirement were cut short, Kayla said. While she admits to being somewhat nervous about life in the civilian world, she is encouraged by the support of family, friends and an entire community.
"Finally having a place to call home, there are no words to describe it," Kayla said. "We have been bouncing all over the place for the past five years and so to settle near family is unbelievable."
To date, the Texas Sentinels Foundation has successfully adopted five deserving soldiers throughout Texas. In addition to providing adequate housing to the veterans in need, the nonprofit organization also works to facilitate a lasting bond between the veterans and their community, and provides financial counseling and lifelong sentinel membership.
"I'm a Navy vet and I love the fact that we are honoring these veterans," Smith said. "When I got out, it wasn't that way. This was such a fun project; we are so blessed to have the Texas Sentinel program."
Like Feagin, Texas Sentinel founders Richard and Jeanne Filip were also inspired by the tragedy of 9/11 to make a difference, particularly in the lives of the men and women returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Shortly after 9/11, I started hearing a lot of stories about soldiers coming back from Iraq severely wounded, their lives being flipped over," Richard said. "That's where the vision to start building homes came from. We are just the catalyst -- [the community] is the driving force and this is our poster team."
The groundbreaking was a culmination of many fundraisers and social events held in large part by local real estate offices, which coordinated and helped facilitate festivities such as barbeques, fun runs, and golf tournaments throughout the summer. The outpouring of continued support is something everyone involved hopes to spread like wildfire for years to come, Smith said.
"It's amazing that just a few short months ago, this was just a concept," said Smith. "We are setting an example for the entire Sentinel program. We need to honor these vets like Justin who are coming back. So many of them don't come back the same."
Feagin now participates in a military mentoring program and welcomes other wounded veterans returning home for the first time. He has been awarded 16 medals for his service, including the Purple Heart.
"He reassures them that they still have a future here," Bill said. "In a way, it's healing for him, too."
Like their son, the Feagins are extremely thankful that the Texas Sentinel program selected him, and still can't believe it is finally becoming a reality.
"We never even thought it was going to happen to us or our family," Sharry said. "We had seen it on TV, and we know there are thousands of others just a worthy. As parents, we are very proud."
With the construction commencing soon, Kayla hopes their new home may be a Christmas present this year, perhaps ending one chapter of their life and beginning another.
"I can't say thank you enough," Kayla said.
To learn more about the Texas Sentinel Program, visit www.texassentinels.org.
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