Operation: Coming Home is why hundreds of soldiers in uniform and civilians from the community were gathered on the red clay of a neighborhood under construction in Fuquay-Varina, NC, that October morning. Local builders, businesses, and volunteers donated the lot, labor, materials, fixtures, paint, trim, money, and furnishings to complete a custom-built, fully furnished home for the Bozik family.

An honor guard of Patriot Guard riders led the procession into the neighborhood, followed by a military band from Fort Bragg. When the Boziks emerged from the limousine, it was to the applause of those who had helped make this dream a reality, and those of us who would be their new neighbors.

The overflight of three Blackhawk helicopters in formation and their subsequent landing in the neighborhood was dramatic, the drill team’s precision performance thrilling, and the many speeches often quite touching. And when the Black Daggers Special Operations parachute team landed and the team leader presented the Boziks the keys to their new home, it was electric.

But just as powerful — at least in my eyes — is that while this community came together to build a home for the family of an American hero, it wasn’t a one-off affair.

The same people who served as soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen are already planning on building their next Hero’s Home for another injured veteran as a way of thanking them for their service. It may be that I get another extraordinary neighbor or neighbors. It may be that they build their next veteran’s home in another community in the Triangle. It could be that another group somewhere near you is charting a similar path, as is occurring across the country.

As we sit down with our loved ones this Thanksgiving, remember those who have made life-changing — and life-ending — sacrifices so that we may live in a free land with so much to be thankful for, and perhaps consider saying a prayer for those hometown heroes who do what they can to make sure those sacrifices are never forgotten.