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STANTONSBURG — A pair of F-15 Eagles flew low over the treetops along Bar Tee Bridge Road just as a combat-wounded veteran was about to be presented with the keys to his family’s newly renovated home.
Former U.S. Army Master Sgt. Michael Levine looked over his shoulder as the fighter jets streaked out of sight and thought ‘That can’t be for me.”
“It was kind of crazy,” Levine said. “At first, I thought ‘No, they didn’t do that.’ I’m glad it turned out I was right. It was a little overboard.”
The home is along a frequently used corridor for military aircraft and the Air Force planes were likely originating from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in neighboring Wayne County.
Levine, his wife Jenna and their family were presented a home as part of the Military Warriors Support Foundation in collaboration with PNC Bank.
Levine, injured five years ago while serving in Iraq, is a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army and the Iowa National Guard.
“I am overwhelmed. I truly am. I never expected a turnout like this. Thank you, National Guard members. That’s my brothers over there. That’s who I served with. I am overwhelmed. My whole family is overwhelmed. I wish my other children could be here to see this,” Levine said after receiving the keys to the home from Jim Hansen, PNC regional president for the eastern Carolinas region. “I don’t know how to say thank you. My wife is having a hard time. I told her no crying. I don’t think we will be able to hold it back. I don’t have the words. I can’t thank you people enough for what you have done.”
Hansen put Levine at ease.
“Your service speaks the words and it is what we appreciate as a grateful nation,” Hansen said.
About 60 people attended the ceremony at the home, located in a rural setting near farm fields and woods just east of Stantonsburg.
“This event is proof-positive that we still have people who care,” said Stantonsburg Mayor Bill Edmundson. “You will find just about anything you need in Stantonsburg. You will find neighbors who help each other and come together in times of sorrow or despair.”
Cathy Grover, a human resources executive with PNC, said the home has been through extensive renovations with all new carpet, kitchen appliances, fresh paint throughout the entire home, new plumbing and a new fence around the backyard for the family dog.
“This is a great home in a wonderful community and I know that your new neighbors are excited to welcome you here as well,” Grover said.
Grover said a team of about 30 PNC employees, veterans and non-veterans volunteered to work on the house to prepare it for the Levine family.
“PNC is honored to be part of the Military Warriors Support Foundation Homes for Wounded Heroes program,” Grover said. “Through it, we are able to assist honorable soldiers like Sgt. Levine, who received a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat in Iraq.”
This is the bank’s fourth donation in the program.
“It is the right way to honor service men or women who became injured due to the execution of their duty in defense of their country,” Grover said.
Home Depot helped guide the renovation and made donations. Capital City Restoration was the contractor. Weichert Workforce Mobility moved the family from Texas at no charge.
More than 815 homes have been donated nationwide since the program started.
“The ability to award a mortgage-free home to a combat-wounded hero or Gold Star spouse is life-changing,” said Kathy Feeney, executive adviser of the Military Warriors Support Foundation.
“We have been able to help heroes reduce their debt by over $20 million through the mentoring program. Another great statistic is that 1,300 children now have a place to call home,” Feeney said.“It is always such an honor to introduce our hero, and today our hero is Michael and Jenna and your family.”
Levine is a native of Abilene, Texas and is moving to Wilson from Mount Vernon, Texas.
“Hero is a hard word for me. I was just doing a job,” Levine said. “Everybody calls (me) hero this and hero that. My wife is the biggest one who pushes it. If you want to call what I did being a hero, then I am a hero, but there are still millions of people out there doing the same job and we need to think about them.”