Coffey family finally home
By SEAN SHAPIRO
It was a cool morning, but the rain held off just long enough for a perfect day as Operation Finally Home held the home dedication for Ray Coffey and his family in Santa Rita Ranch.
Cars started filling the subdivision around 8 a.m. – two hours before the event was scheduled to start – while a who’s who list of dignitaries were surrounded by a wall of cameras set up in front of the newly-built home.
University of Texas mascot Bevo was in attendance and “posed” for photos, while a motorcade of motorcycles slowly rolled down the street to begin the official festivities. The Liberty Hill High School marching band then marched down before the guests of honor arrived.
Coffey and his family – wife Melanie and their three children – then took their seats of honor under the tarp in front of the home. After a prayer and an introduction, the local Boy Scout Troop raised the American Flag before Gary Henley took over as the master of ceremonies.
It was fitting that Henley was emceeing the event and passing the microphone to multiple speakers, after all he was the architect behind bringing the Coffeys to Liberty Hill.
Henley is the leader of the operation in Liberty Hill. An Air Force Veteran, Henley said he “got the bug” for building and providing wounded veterans with new homes after helping modify a home for Alan Babin, a wounded Purple Heart recipient in Round Rock, who attended the dedication Saturday.
After helping Babin, Henley has since helped on multiple projects in central Texas, Most recently helping build a home for Augie Pena in Jonestown before spearheading the project in Liberty Hill.
One of the first obstacles Henley ran into on this project was finding a lot for the home, a problem that was quickly solved by Ed and Elizabeth Horne, developers of Santa Rita Ranch.
With the lot in place, Operation Finally Home worked with the Hornes to find a lot plan that could be easily tweaked to Veterans Affairs standards. Then Henley started tracking down the needed volunteers.
And he found the volunteers he needed. Most of the time and money needed for the construction was donated, and the Coffey family visited the home throughout the process and thanked the volunteers.
While Coffey was frequently thanking volunteers, he was more than deserving of the home.
Coffey served two tours of duty in Iraq as part of the US Marine Corps before he was injured in February 2004. Coffey’s unit was caught in a firefight with an insurgent force and he was wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED).
Even after the blast, Coffey continued to fight and lead the attack. As he continued to fight forward he was exposed to more enemy gunfire, allowing other wounded Marines to escape safely.
The battle left Coffey with a list of long-term injuries, including traumatic brain injury, several cognitive disorders, memory loss, hearing loss, vision loss, and major damage to his back, ankles, and feet. He’s also wheelchair bound much of the time.
Coffey’s sacrifices and dedication were well remembered at the dedication ceremony, including a couple stories from Lt. Gen. Willie J. Williams who spoke about his bravery and how Coffey did, “everything and anything” to serve his country.
“Just hearing his story and knowing what he did is incredible,” Williams said before the event. “I’m happy to be able to be here and speak, it’s truly an honor with what he’s done for our country.”
After Williams spoke, Coffey took the microphone and he thanked all in attendance, he also told a story about one his favorite parts of the new home.
Several bible verses where written on the walls of the home by volunteers before the walls were sheetrocked. Coffey said it was his favorite part of the process.
“We’ll always know this was a gift from God,” he said, thanking those who put in their time and effort.
It was quite a whirlwind month for the Coffeys who didn’t find out about the project or that they would be moving to central Texas until they were surprised at the Round Rock Express baseball game in mid-August 2014.
“We thought we were just going to a baseball game,” Coffey said. “Then this happened. We’re so thankful.”