Veterans welcome new resident

400-Tyler-and-AshleyVeterans welcome new resident

By Michael Isam
St Augustine, FL

Everyone knows that Marines are tough. Just how tough has yet to be completely proven. St. Johns County is now home to another Marine.

December 21, 2010, two days before the birth of his daughter, Marine Lance Corporal Brandon Long was in Sangin, Afghanistan. He was on his first deployment and on foot patrol with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. While walking through a patch of river rocks he stepped on an IED.

That was when all hell broke loose. Not only did he lose both legs to the IED blast, but he lost nearly 98% of his blood volume.

His squad launched heroic measures to save his life while waiting for a helicopter to arrive for MEDEVAC. Due to the tremendous amount of blood loss, LCpl Long required resuscitation multiple times during the ordeal lasting over an hour by the time he arrived at a local field hospital.

Long was next airlifted to Landstuhl, Germany before arriving at Bethesda Naval Medical Center where he remained for 2 years enduring surgeries and rehabilitation before returning home to Indiana.

Honey Branch Lane, located off CR208, was host to the 3rd groundbreaking ceremony for an ably challenged Veteran. LCpl Brandon Long, his wife, daughter and nephew.

In an event held by Homes For Our Troops, Long and his family were escorted by Rolling Thunder out of Jacksonville, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and Vietnam Vets/Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club.

The procession was stopped short allowing Long and his family to be piped in by members of The St. Johns County Pipes and Drums, followed by members of First Watch as they proceeded through a Flag Line provided by the Patriot Guard Riders.

Long and his family were greeted by current residents of Honey Branch Lane, Cpl Tyler Southern and Master Sgt. John Hayes. Hayes and his family received the keys to their new home earlier this year. Southern and his wife were the first neighborhood recipients of a Homes For Our Troops house two years ago. Hayes issued a formal “Welcome to the neighborhood” to Long and his family.

Nease High School JROTC and the Marine Corps League detachment provided Color Guard and Miss Faith Miller sung the National Anthem.

Long told an audience of nearly 100 supporters “One thing this home will provide for our family is allowing my wife to retire from being a full time caregiver and I can become a full time husband again.” “My wife will have the benefit from two wives in the neighborhood who know what she is going through.” “Having friends able to relate to and understand our situation is going to be amazing,” said Nicole Long.

“The stories of these incredible Veterans are inspiring” said Larry Gill, Veteran Liaison for Homes for Our Troops. Gill went on to share a special moment in his life and the history of the organization.

“Many years ago during my recovery process,” said Gill, “I was talking with a fellow patient at Walter Reid. He had lost both arms and was wearing the prosthetics. Eventually the conversation turned to the inevitable ‘how I got my purple heart’ conversation.” “The young man told me he was inflating a tire when the snap ring came off and severed both his arms.” “I remarked that I knew a young soldier who died under similar circumstances.” “The young Veteran replied, “He was working with me when he died.”

That chance meeting led to a home being built for the Veteran by Homes For Our Troops; with one stipulation. “As grateful as I am for the honor,” said the Veteran, “I won’t feel comfortable until a home is built for all the ably challenged.” A deal was struck that has lead to the building of more than 140 homes in over 30 states.

As an added bonus to the event, it was learned a new resident on Honey Branch Lane will be arriving very shortly. Tyler and Ashley Southern are expecting their first child.

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