A hero’s home

NEWPORT TWP. – His custom-designed smart house is taking shape, but Kyle Hockenberry is already home.

“He’s officially retired as a corporal and he is home,” said Chet Hockenberry, father of the 2010 Frontier High School graduate who lost both legs above the knee and his left arm above the elbow in a 2011 blast from an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol in Afghanistan.

Kyle Hockenberry had been living in San Antonio, Texas as he continued his rehabilitation. He’s been back to the area several times, but now, he and his wife, Ashley, are here to stay.

“That’s what we’ve been waiting for,” Chet Hockenberry said.

The couple are staying with family and can now be more involved with the house being built on family property on Bells Run Road in Newport Township.

The house is being constructed by Building for America’s Bravest, a program of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. On Tuesday, John Koch, manager of specially adapted housing for the foundation, was in the area to meet with contractors and check the progress of the project.

The basement of the house has taken shape, thanks to the efforts of lead builder Mondo Building and Excavating, who is donating most of their services, and other subcontractors, along with volunteers from local unions. The project is proceeding on schedule, despite heavy rains this summer, Koch said.

“Right now, we’re where we want to be,” he said.

There have been adjustments to the initial plans. Originally the new house was to have been built on the footprint of the home of Hockenberry’s great-great-grandmother, which was torn down during a March groundbreaking. But Koch said concerns over possible land slips after some trees were removed caused them to move it forward several feet.

Koch said the home will definitely be finished before the end of the year, but he didn’t want to predict a completion date. He said he’d rather allow time for any additional adjustments and fixes to be made without trying to meet an artificial deadline.

“I want it done so that the next time I come here, it’s for a barbecue,” Koch said.

He’s pleased with the work that’s been done and the enthusiasm of the people doing it, he said.

“It’s pretty amazing to see how many people come out, actually volunteer their time for something like this and don’t ask for anything in return,” Koch said.

Members of local unions have helped pour concrete in the basement, worked on floor joists and performed a number of other tasks. As the need arises, they will continue to contribute, said Bill Hutchinson, business manager for the Parkersburg/Marietta Building Trades Association.

“It’s always important to give back, and we feel like Kyle has sacrificed and we have a chance, through our labor, to help him out,” he said.

Copper Leaf Interior Design in Marietta is assisting with interior finishes, plumbing fixtures and more inside.

“We’re glad to be a part of the project team,” said Copper Leaf owner Pam Holschuh. “It was just something that really inspired us to give back to (Hockenberry).”

Koch was planning to meet with Copper Leaf, among others today, and Hockenberry had his first face-to-face meeting with the design team there on Tuesday.

Donations are still being accepted for the Hockenberry house. Fundraising kicked off in August with a concert by actor Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band, and it was said at the March groundbreaking that the approximately $375,000 project was fully funded. However, John Ponte, director of smart home technology for Tunnel to Towers, said some anticipated donations did not come through.

“That leaves us needing to pay for those services,” he said.

Ponte noted that if the money raised for Hockenberry’s house exceeds the final cost, the remaining donations will be rolled over to another project for a wounded service member.

“It’s just one guy helping the next out,” Koch said.

Chet Hockenberry said it’s “pretty special” to know the land on which the house is being built will stay in the family and provide his son with a home.