Disabled veteran handed keys to new house specially designed for him
At the end of a cul-de-sac in Uniontown, a new house with about 100 well-wishers waited on Saturday for the arrival of retired Marine Corps Cpl. Brandon Rumbaugh.
The quiet spring morning was disrupted by six motorcycles leading a red Marine Corps Hummer to the beige-sided ranch home on Paul Court.
Then Rumbaugh stepped out, using one prosthetic leg and crutches.
The 25-year-old lost his legs in Afghanistan in 2010 in a blast from an improvised explosive device. Rumbaugh was running to rescue another Marine who had stepped on an IED.
Rumbaugh walked up the driveway and greeted everyone gathered to see representatives of Taunton, Mass.-based Homes for Our Troops turn over the house keys to Rumbaugh.
“It's hard to put into words,” Rumbaugh said after a short ceremony. “People are just continually giving, giving, giving. I appreciate every bit of it, it really means a lot. ... It's just unreal.”
The 3,760-square foot house with gleaming wood floors has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage.
Volunteers outfitted the home with 155 adaptive features. It has lower countertops, thermostats, windows and light switches. There are wheelchair-height appliances and a roll-in shower with non-slip tiling on the floor.
And there is no mortgage for Rumbaugh, who is now a college student.
Individual and corporate donations paid for the home, one of 165 built since Home for Our Troops was founded in 2004, said Dave Webster, the group's director of finance.
During the ceremony, president Tim McHale said the gift of the home was part of the group's mission to support the men and women in the military who have sacrificed their freedom and independence to protect the United States and its citizens.
“Today, we're going to try to give back a little freedom and independence in your own home,” McHale, a retired Army general, told Rumbaugh.
Rumbaugh received a one-year warranty on the home, along with two years of financial planning.
“No one is more deserving of this home than Brandon,” said Uniontown Mayor Ed Fike, who noted donors came from close to home and from across the nation.
Master Sgt. Brian Bensen, Rumbaugh's longtime friend from Connellsville who is a Marine Corps recruiter, said Rumbaugh is the definition of a hero.
“To care about people that much, I'm damn proud to have put Brandon in the Marine Corps,” Bensen said. “The lives that he's affected, the people he's probably saved, the type of person he is today, the things that he's going to do in this world ... I am so proud he's standing here today as a Marine that's served with him.”
Rumbaugh raised the American flag outside his new home before cutting a ribbon with his family. He took a tour of the house before delivery trucks arrived with donated furniture.
He thanked Homes for Our Troops and acknowledged family and friends in the crowd who give unending support.
“I turn left, there's somebody there. I turn right, there's somebody there. I turn around, there's somebody there to help me,” he said during the ceremony. “There's really not a shortage of anything I might need, and it makes me feel grateful that I have people like that in my life.”
Rumbaugh's girlfriend, Jozie Squib of Markleysburg said that the house will help Rumbaugh, who is studying business at Penn State-Fayette The Eberly Campus, to move forward in his life.
“He is always a go-getter, he is going, going, going at all times,” she said. “He's an inspiration to not only me but to every person he meets. He touches their lives in some way.”
Rumbaugh's aunt, Dawn Green of Philadelphia, said Rumbaugh is very humble.
“I don't know anybody that has the strength that he does,” she said. “He's an amazing young man.”