The air buzzes in the main hallway of the Prestwyck Community model home as dozens crowd inside the two-story house. Children squeeze past their parents’ legs to chase one another up and down the stairs and each room swells with mingling people.
Brandon Byers stands toward the back of the hallway, welcoming new guests with a handshake as they brush past the gauntlet of people, his wife Megan and their two children near his side. A voice rises above the commotion to direct everyone to the empty lot next door.
Photo courtesy of Raytheon
Brandon Byers poses with his wife and two children after the ceremony.
Byers makes his way past the crowd using a cane to help ease the stiffness he feels in his prosthetic leg.
A former Senior Airman in the Air Force, Byers sustained life threatening injuries in October 2006 when his vehicle was hit by an explosively formed projectile (EFP) while on a security convoy. Since that day Brandon has undergone nearly 30 surgeries and the amputation of his left leg.
But now, on a sunny July morning, he walks with his family toward a waving band of American flags and stock-still ceremonial shovels that dot the neighboring lot, waiting to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Byers’ new home in McKinney, Texas.
A home Raytheon donated more than $10,000 to help build through one employee’s volunteerism.
“One thing we’re good at as a country is saying ‘thank you’ to our heroes,” said Meredith Iler, founder and national chairwoman of Helping a Hero.
The groundbreaking is the fourth of five homes that the Houston-based nonprofit is building in the North Texas area.
The homes are usually funded from three sources: $100,000 in community donations, $100,000 from the builder and developer, and then $50,000 is the Byers' VA mortgage – equal to what they would pay in monthly rent for an apartment.
Raytheon contributed directly to the Byers home’s development and also helped sponsor a benefit concert hosted by local nonprofit Smiles Charity that raised the $100,000 from the community.
“Raytheon believes in its responsibility to give back to our nation’s servicemen and women, and showing our support for the Byers family represents one of the many ways we give back to our communities,” said Jon Allen, senior manager for Community Relations at McKinney-based Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.
Geoff Clark, senior manager for Business Development at Raytheon Missile Systems and newly appointed North Texas director for Helping a Hero, led much of the relationship-building with local community partners, including Raytheon, to help raise the funds.
“I want to raise awareness about welcoming home returning veterans, [about] what special needs they may have, and as a community, how we prepare and educate ourselves to help our veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,” Clark said.
Clark’s ties to the McKinney volunteer community helped raise the money for the Byers home and gained the attendance and support of public officials, such as Texas state senator Ken Paxton, state representatives Scott Sanford and Scott Turner and McKinney mayor Brian Loughmiller.
“It’s an honor for our community to have Senior Airman Brandon Byers among us – a true hero in every sense of the word,” Loughmiller said.
He then handed Byers a proclamation officially designating July 22 as Brandon Byers day in McKinney. Subsequent speakers bestowed other honors in recognition of Byers’ service and sacrifice.
The home is expected to be ready for presentation to the Byers by early November.
“The hope being we get Brandon and his family into their home before Thanksgiving,” Clark said.
Clark is organizing the presentation event, which will include Congressman Sam Johnson and Miss Texas, Ali Nugent. He is also coordinating the fifth and final home groundbreaking event planned for September in nearby Plano – the recipient being a double amputee.
The family won’t know how the inside of the house will look like until then, but Clark said it will accommodate the space Byers needs to move freely with his prosthesis and wheelchair.
“Plus, his wife Megan has a home baking business, so this home will have pretty much a commercial-grade kitchen. So that’s really going to be slick,” Clark said.
And while this new home offers an opportunity to build a life in a new community, it’s also a chance for Byers and his wife to continue helping people who have stories of hardship like theirs.
“Me and my family have gone through really tough times, but we’ve received many blessings in the process – this home being one of them,” Byers said.
“And my wife and I realize that we have a calling to serve and share the blessings that we’ve received.”