Volunteers come together to build home for Licking Co. disabled vet who lost house in fire

Local News

LICKING COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH) — He lost his legs to war, then he lost his house to fire.

A Licking Country man, his wife and 10 children, lost their home and all their possessions when their home went up in flames.

But a ‘new’ house is going up — thanks to two remarkable groups of volunteers.

“We are like the main focus for people that I’ve never met​, never had a conversation with, and you know, that cannot be overlooked,” said Melroy Cort.

Cort was 19 when he went off to war. Four months later, he came home without his legs.  He and his wife Samantha went on to have 10 kids, but a year ago, lost nearly everything they owned in a fire.

“Knowing that they had no place to go back to and they have been working so hard to maintain their family, this, to me, is an amazing gift to them,” said volunteer Becky Richardson.

It sure is. A house, paid for by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Siller was a firefighter who died in a tunnel trying to save people on Sept. 11, 2001.

The manpower here, a group known as A Soldier’s Journey Home, is made up of first responders from around the country who use their personal vacation time once a year to build a house for a deserving veteran.

“You’re with 200 good-hearted people that come together to do this as a vacation, so just being with those type of people is a great feeling, especially today with everything that’s going on,” said volunteer John Ponte.

It’s been a year in the planning, but a 4,000-square-foot, six-bedroom house will go up in two weeks.

“The last house we built, we actually did the man hours and, in two weeks, we did 12,000 man hours and this one will be somewhere about the same, if not more,” said volunteer Patrick Neville.

“Someone that you’ve never met would care this much about you and your family to do this,” said Samantha Cort. “All of these people are taking up their time to do this. It’s amazing. It’s humbling.”

The first responders said the annual project feels like a family reunion.

“A Soldier’s Journey Home is made up of members from 14 different states, so each time we do something, a group from the last state we were in jumps in for the next one,” said Neville.

On Saturday, the Cort family will be together in their new smart home, designed for a disabled veteran, made from materials donated by Home Depot.

“This is a young man who voluntarily signed on the dotted line to go into harm’s way to fight for the freedom that allows us all to be here today,” Ponte said. “The freedom that this country enjoys and so much appreciates.”

“This world is in a different place right now and to see the true humanity in people, it makes your heart swell,” said Samantha Cort.

“Thank you,” Melroy Cort said. “We appreciate it. Thanks for the consideration and our family greatly appreciates it all.”

Thanks to Tunnel To Towers for sharing the video for this story.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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