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Disabled Vet, Family Invited For A Burger, Get A Home

Disabled Marine veteran Warren Cottrell Jr., his wife and two daughters recently came to Pamlico County to tour the Heros Home, being built for donation by nonprofit Military Missions in Action.

They were told they were finalists to receive the home. They did not realize it was a ruse.

They were actually the surprise recipients, getting the news during a casual photo op with Russ Richard, who donated the lot for the home in his Natures Run subdivision on Dawson Creek.

They told us to come by and visit the house and have a burger, that the board would make a decision on Monday, Cottrell said of the Saturday afternoon trip.

Richard and Mike Dorman, head of Military Missions in Action, were very public about their project during the past year, trying to get all the media attention they could to attract volunteer donors and workers.

But they wanted to keep the announcement as a surprise.

They succeeded and the quiet was broken by looks of disbelief from Cottrell, his wife, Maria, and their daughters, Sara and Faith, followed by screams, tears and hugs for everyone close by.

Cottrell, who first joined the Marines in 1997 and suffered a traumatic brain injury in a 2004 mortar attack in Iraq, also shook hands with more than 20 Cherry Point air station Marines who were on hand that afternoon working on the house.

This is our house! This is our house! Maria kept saying amid the hugs and handshakes, which brought misty eyes to the crowd.

The Cottrells were back in Pamlico County where their daughter, Sara, is a rising ninth-grader enrolled in the Pamlico County High School JROTC program.

The new house is still in the works, but Richard and Dorman wanted the family to be able to enroll the children in school. Cottrell said temporary housing is in the works.

This has changed our lives completely, said Maria.

Warren agreed, calling the difference between the 1,800-square-foot home and the 900-square-foot home they have near Beulaville amazing.

Maybe the first day we stay there, it will hit me, he said. It is just too good to be true. You could live 10 lifetimes and never get this chance. Mike Dorman is a hero to me.

Their current house is tiny, with just one closet and ceilings Cottrell can touch.

There is more footage in the garage than we have in our house, pretty much, he said.

Cottrell is a New Jersey native who grew up in Missouri, when his single mom Edna packed up the four children and put a finger on the map.

Cottrells father wasnt in the picture.

He aint much to talk about, Cottrell said.

But Warren said he had a good stepfather, truck driver Dennis Fewell, who now lives with Edna in Beulaville.

When Warren tired of working as a dish washer, he joined the military. He joined while on a visit to his brother in Oklahoma so he could have basic training in California.

He met his wife while stationed at Camp Lejeune, during a weekend trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

She jumped out of a car and said hello and we were married four months later, he said. That was 15 years ago.

After two deployments to the Middle East as part of the 26th MEU, he left the Marines, but only for a few months. Life in a textile mill didnt fit and he re-upped for deployment.

His third trip to the Middle East was not a charm.

Stationed at tiny Camp Blue Diamond, he and three other Marines were walking near a wall around the camp when rocket and mortars hit.

He was left with severe brain damage and lesions on his frontal lobe. The results have been years of ongoing recovery, with severe headaches, daily vomiting, along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. Therapy and medication are a way of life.

The new home will make life better.

I suffer from a brain injury, Cottrell said. It is really something that they are just really finding out about. You can put on a prosthetic leg on. You cant put a new brain in.

The home will relieve much of his worry about his family.

I have been really focused on my recovery the last year and a half, he said. For many years, I didnt do what I was supposed to do. It is a really rough road. I have been trying to live my life right no alcohol or anything like that. God showed me that good things do happen to good people.

A flag pole was erected near the house and entrance to the subdivision, donated by the new Marine Corps League in Oriental.

Located off Kershaw Road, the lot is about an acre.

It is going to be a very nice house, Dorman said of the 1,800-square-foot home. We want enough living space for a family of four, but we dont want so much upkeep and maintenance and taxes that they lose the house in five years because they cant afford to keep it up and pay the taxes.

The house includes a garage, screened porch, three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

We dont need to be building 3,000-square-foot homes, he said earlier of his organizations mission. We need to be good stewards of the money that is given to us. Lets help more people instead of building mansions.

The Fuquay-Varina-based nonprofit operates solely on private donations.

We dont get any government assistance or grants, Dorman said.

The house and materials have mostly come from volunteers and donations.

Military Missions in Action has provided more than $2 million in services through various programs Operation Building Hope, Homes For Healing, Military Child Access Assistance Program, Fill The Footlocker, and Operation Warrior Golf.

Projects have reached west to Kannapolis and east to Wilmington and other points along the North Carolina coast.

Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585.

For more information: Call Military Missions in Action at 919-552-1603 in Fuquay-Varina or 910-603-5999 in Southern Pines. Russ Richard can be reached at 497-6925. On the web: militarymissionsinaction.org




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