Robert Scott III and his mother, Valence, came to the Fredericksburg Expo Center on Friday afternoon for opening ceremonies of the Marine Corps Historic Half events — and left with a key to a new home.
The key was a giant-size cardboard one that won’t fit any lock but served a symbolic purpose. The Scotts wiped away tears when they received it and were told they are being given a house in a new development in Stafford County.
“It’s so overwhelming, words cannot express my gratitude,” said Valence Scott, who’s been her son’s caretaker since his service-related injury in 2012.
As for Robert Scott, who usually lets his mother do all the talking, his comments were succinct.
“I’m just happy to survive and be alive today,” he said. “I was in a coma for almost two years.”
The Scotts are the beneficiary of a partnership between Building Homes for Heroes, a national nonprofit, and Kettler and Hillwood Properties and Ryan Homes, a Northern Virginia developer.
Building Homes for Heroes was founded in 2006 when servicemembers from the war on terror came home from Iraq and Afghanistan with lifechanging industries.
The nonprofit started with the goal to provide one servicemember a dream home, a house with modifications tailored to the individual’s injuries, and has fulfilled 300 dreams since then, said Kim Vesey, vice president.
Building Homes for Heroes partnered with the Marine Corps Marathon Organization for the first time this year and announced on Friday it had formed another partnership, with Kettler and Hillwood. The developers donated a lot in Rappahannock Landing to the organization, which Building Homes for Heroes will turn over to the Scotts, mortgage-free.
The two live in Manassas and don’t know much about the Fredericksburg area, but say they’re eager to learn. The announcement of the new home was the highlight of opening ceremonies Friday, and one that brought tears to others, not just to the Scotts.
Vesey got choked up as she read Scott’s bio. Now 49, he graduated from Norfolk State in 1999 with a degree in finance and economics, then started working as broker, trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
On the morning of 9/11, he missed the train that normally took him to his job in the World Trade Center. The attack on the Twin Towers was devastating to his family from Long Island, New York, as they lost 15 friends and colleagues, his mother said.
Robert Scott told her he wanted “to do something to preserve our freedom and our way of life,” Vesey said.
His mother wondered why he’d want to give up such a good-paying job; he said he wanted to serve his country with honor and pride. She promised to do the same, to him, if he were injured.
Scott became an Army sergeant, nicknamed “Babyface Finster” from a Looney Tunes character for his boyish looks. He served for seven years until an injury from a tanker blast in Iraq caused a blood clot to travel from his leg to his lungs, Vesey said. The clot cut off the flow of oxygen and caused sudden cardiac arrest.
While comatose, he was treated at Walter Reed Medical Center, then transferred to the Richmond Veterans Administration Medical Center. He suffers from the side effects of the traumatic brain injury, hypertension and post-sudden cardiac arrest.
“Due to his injuries and ongoing daily struggles, his mother is his fulltime caretaker,” Vesey said.
Still, people tell Valence Scott all the time “how wonderful he is,” and he’s always filled with joy, she said. The only thing he wishes is that he could still be in the Army and reach his dream of becoming a warrant officer, she said.
Peter Olechnovich, vice president of land development with Kettler and Hillwood Properties, said his company was glad to help when approached by Building Homes for Heroes.
“It’s hard to imagine a charitable organization with a more important mission,” he said, “than serving our veterans and members of the Armed Forces who sometimes make huge sacrifices to protect our freedoms.”
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