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Attendants to the Cottrell house dedication render honors to the raised flag as part of the dedication ceremony in Beulaville, N.C., Jan. 14. After a 30-day renovation, Warren Cottrell, a medically-retired sergeant with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, and his family moved into the new house as the community's volunteers looked on.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

Wounded warrior’s house renovated by MMIA, community

14 Jan 2011 | Lance Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

As a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Air Force in World War II, James Doolittle led the first U.S. air raid against the Japanese home islands in April of 1942, earning him the Medal of Honor. In reference to the team of pilots he assembled to carry out the raid, he said, “there is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”

Whereas Doolittle was speaking on the air raids’ team of pilots having the opportunity to volunteer for the mission, those words carry across the gap of various generations to today, where volunteers are still active participants in communities across the country.

Such, then, is the instance where, due to the efforts of the community of Beulaville, N.C., Warren Cottrell, a medically-retired sergeant, and his family have had their house renovated and officially dedicated during a ceremony at their home, Jan. 14.

“This has been a very worthwhile project, and it has shown what we as a community can do when we work together,” said Kenneth Smith, mayor of Beulaville. “The local people, the churches, the businesses; all have been very helpful in this undertaking, which speaks for how much the community appreciates all that our service members do.”

Before Thanksgiving, the Cottrell house was in dire need of repair; nearly everything that used water was leaking, there were holes in the floor where one could see down through to the ground and spots of hazardous mold. However, the condition of the house was straining on the mind of the former sergeant with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Traumatic Brain Injury, often spending most of his time out of the house to try to cope with it.

“After I came back from my deployment to Afghanistan, my wife said I didn’t seem like the same person,” said Cottrell. “I was getting frequent, strong headaches and became easily agitated. After I medically left the Corps I lapsed into bouts of depression, and the state of the house definitely didn’t help at all.”

Cottrell’s wife and two daughters felt as if they wouldn’t get the husband and father that they knew back from the abyss, until one body of people with the whole community’s support behind them stepped in: the Military Missions in Action.

A non-profit charitable organization dedicated to serving the injured men and women of the Department of Defense, MMIA’s main focus is doing whatever modifications are necessary to the house of a wounded veteran, be it the addition of wheelchair ramps, widening doorways, adjusting counter and cabinet heights, structural and electrical repair or a full-fledged renovation, to which the Cottrell family received.

“Some give all and all give some to our country,” said Mike Dorman, executive director of MMIA. “Now it’s the community’s turn to give some back by helping rebuild this house and honor Warren and his family for all they have done.”

The 30-day renovation, with the help of various volunteers throughout Beulaville, was completed Dec. 23, all the while the Cottrell family stayed in lodgings paid for by the Semper Fi Fund. After the family moved back in, the dedication ceremony was planned for Jan. 14, complete with a two-Marine flag-raising and appearances by Lt. Col. Nicholas Davis, commanding officer of Wounded Warrior Battalion – East, Miss Coastal Carolina Mary Tucker and Congressman Walter Jones, 3rd District congressman.

“This is America at its best,” said Jones. “The community of Beulaville coming together and helping the real heroes of America; not the football players or the basketball players, but the service members and their families. This is a day of celebration for a Marine and his family and what they’ve done for this great country.”

After the tours of the house were done and the words of gratitude were all spoken, the Cottrells walked back into their house a stronger family – their home was healed by friends and strangers of the community, as well as one former Marine’s life set back on the right track.