LANCASTER, Calif. — When Jerral Hancock came home from the Iraq war missing one arm, with another that barely worked and a paralyzed body that was burned all over, he was a hero to this Mojave Desert town.
But soon enough, he would be forgotten by all but his two young children, who live with him, and his parents across the street.
Hancock, 27, had bought a mobile home near his parents' place shortly before he was due to leave the military. It was small, but a good first home for a young guy with a wife, two kids and a dog. But he hadn't planned on coming home in a wheelchair.
Hancock was driving a tank through Baghdad on May 29, 2007, when the vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. It was his 21st birthday.
After Hancock's wife left him and his son and daughter, his mother and stepfather became his caretakers.
Then the students in Jamie Goodreau's U.S. history classes learned of Hancock's struggles and that most of the hallways of his tiny house were too narrow for his wheelchair.
They would fix that, the students decided, by building Hancock a new home. It would be their end-of-the-year project to honor veterans, something Goodreau's classes have chosen to do for the past 15 years. This time, the stakes would be much higher.
It's six months later and the students have closed escrow on a $264,000 property. The students plan to break ground next month.