- Filed Under
KOKOMO, Ind. — When Rhonda Walton pulled into the driveway of her new house on North Wabash Avenue, she couldn't believe her eyes.
Standing on the front lawn, on the sidewalk and in the street were about 30 to 40 people waiting to welcome her and her three children to their new home.
"This is just crazy," she said.
Her husband, Army Spc. Anthony Walton was shot 37 times while fighting in Afghanistan. When he returned to Kokomo, local veterans joined with the Homes For Wounded Warriors Program and built Walton and his family a new home.
During the build, Walton suffered another setback. He fell in a driveway while visiting his wife's family and suffered traumatic head injury.
After being in a coma for a short time, Walton is now recovering at an Indianapolis hospital.
"He's a fighter," his wife told the Kokomo Tribune.
Even though Walton wasn't able to attend the dedication his presence was felt Saturday as members of the VFW Post 1152 dedicated the home with the raising of the U.S. Army flag and the American flag in the front lawn.
One of his main goals when he returned from war was to help fellow veterans through art therapy.
In a small room off the dining room, Walton's paintings were showcased in his new art room.
"He wanted to make sure his artwork was on display when they dedicated the home," said Rhonda, as she led people on a tour through the house.
Marine Corps Capt. Markus Trouerbach, president and founder of the Homes for Wounded Warriors Program, said it took volunteers about 100 days to build the two-story home.
Knowing the suffering veterans families go through upon their return from war, Trouerbach set up the program to make that transition a little easier.
"I don't want them to worry about the finances," he said. "I want them to focus on family. That's what this does."
Volunteer Bill McKinney said it was amazing how the community came together to help one of their own in a time of need.
"I've never seen anything like it," he said, of being at the house early in the build. "Everybody was donating something. It felt good to be part of it."
The day began with a luncheon and recognition ceremony at First Baptist Church on West Taylor Street. Then the group headed to Walton's new home for a home blessing, dedication, flag-raising ceremony and a tour of the home.
"It feels good," said Bill Featherstone of Featherstone Construction. "God spoke to me to do it. It feels good helping one of our own. I couldn't have done it without all the volunteers."
One of those volunteers, Army veteran Troy Mercer knows what Walton went through and was glad to pitch in to help a fellow veteran.
"I was at the Harley shop and a friend told me Anthony's story," said Mercer, who served in the 82nd Airborne in Desert Storm and in Afghanistan. "I called Mark (Trouerbach) and said ‘I got skills.' I'm a carpenter and a soldier. Four of my guys were killed in Afghanistan. I spent 11 weeks in the hospital and lost part of my leg and I've had eight surgeries on my back. I can relate to what Walton's going through."
Jerry Fivecoate, a member of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 25, was thrilled to be able to help a fellow soldier.
"All of us vets stand together and support one another," he said prior to the dedication. "The main thing now is to get him healthy so he will be able to enjoy this with his family."