Gone are front-page stories about America's war campaigns.
But Army Cpl. Jeremy Voels remembers. Every time the 22-year-old looks at his pristine running shoes from his wheelchair. Relentless pain is a reminder for Army Staff Sgt. Jeffery Kelly, 29, who wakes up every morning closer to the day he'll have to sacrifice his withering leg to the surgeon's knife.
With apologies to Gen. Douglas MacArthur: Badly wounded soldiers may not die, but they often just fade away from the community's consciousness.
But not in every community.
On Tuesday, the Windermere Country Club Foundation tees off its 5th A Home for a Hero Golf Tournament (ahomeforahero.org) to raise money to build Voels a home.
Four days later, West Orange Habitat for Humanity will break ground in Oakland on new digs that Kelly will share with his wife Michelle, 24, and daughters, Jade, 6, and Lindsey, 3.
It'll be Habitat's fourth Home at Last project. Launched in 2007, the campaign parlays contributions and in-kind donations into mortgage-free, accessible homes for severely injured war on terror veterans.
With enough donations, Voels, his wife Ashley, and kids, Kaydon, 2, and Charleigh, 1, will receive the fifth Home at Last house.
"We're just a group of neighbors joined together for the common purpose of helping a soldier who put it all on the line in service to our country," says George McNeilly, a Foundation spokesman.
Voels, a military brat, followed his father into service in 2009. A year later, he deployed to Afghanistan.
One night two years ago, he heard gunfire, reached for his radio, and suddenly felt a warm sensation running down his body.
"I thought I'd [wet] myself," he says.
Until he noticed the blood and realized he couldn't stand.
A sniper's bullet splintered vertebrae — which in turn minced his intestines, damaged internal organs and ripped an artery — and injured his spinal cord. Over time, Voels has endured some 30 surgeries to remove or patch damaged organs. With more to come.
Meanwhile, Kelly, after joining the Army Reserves in 2000, and later the regular Army, served three tours in Iraq.
In 2008, his convoy was rocked by a rocket propelled grenade blast and mortar fire. Kelly was knocked unconscious, but revived and completed the mission. Only weeks later did he learn the blast had ruptured a major tendon in his leg that supports the foot, and also triggered an incurable muscle-wasting nerve condition.
Painkillers are no help. Kelly can walk in short spurts with a cane before the pain wins. And someday doctors likely will have to amputate his dying leg below his knee. On top of that, the attack left him with a traumatic brain injury.
"I would do it again if I could," Kelly says. "That's where my heart is."
Home at Last's success, says founder William C. Criswell, relies on the kindness of strangers, who generously donate online at westorangehabitat.org or mail checks or money orders payable to West Orange Habitat for Humanity at P.O. Box 38, Oakland, FL, 34760, designating the donation for "Home at Last."
A house is a poor swap for working legs. And it's hardly compensation for bike rides and impromptu games of tag with their kids that war wounds have stolen.
But it is something. Something that recognizes veterans' sacrifices. Sacrifice that, as good soldiers, both made without regret. Without fanfare. Without expectation of reward.
"It [the house] means everything," Voels says. "It's going to make my life, my wife's life and my family's 10 times easier."
email@example.com or 407-420-5095