By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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About 50 people showed up to honor retired Marine Cpl. Ammon Lang, who stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Sangin, Afghanistan, on June 11, 2011.
His left leg was blown off above the knee, and his right leg eventually was amputated below the knee.
Veterans from American Legion Post 29 stood at attention with American flags on either side of the gravel driveway leading to 72 Hidden Highlands Drive off O'Brien Road as Lang and his family drove in with an escort of the Patriot Guard Riders of Washington and Clallam County sheriff's deputies.
The procession was part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the home, to be built free of charge for Lang, wife Kiri and their sons, who are 2 and 4 years old.
The family is originally from Las Vegas but lately of Kansas.
Once they move, Lang plans to start a business, he said.
During the ceremony, Lang said he was humbled by the show of support from people who don't even know him.
“Marines aren't known for being humble; it's really hard to be humble when you're the best,” Lang said, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Doreen Lewis, community outreach coordinator for Massachusetts-based Homes for Our Troops — which is spearheading the project, its first in Washington state — noted all the veterans at the ceremony.
“Today, we are surrounded by heroes,” she said.
Lewis said Homes for Our Troops is organizing fundraising efforts with the North Peninsula Building Association.
“We're extremely excited to be involved in this project,” said Garret DelaBarre, building association president.
The building association has lined up more than 60 businesses and individuals to help with home construction, DelaBarre said, including Sequim-based Hines Construction, which will be the general contractor on the project.
The house has a single-story floor plan with more than 155 adaptations built into it, such as doors large enough to fit a wheelchair and low counters, said Timothy McHale, president of Homes for Our Troops.
“We don't see this as charity, building this home; we see this as a moral obligation for our American society,” McHale said.
Sean Henderson, president of the Maple Valley Rotary Club, which kicked off fundraising efforts for Lang's home last year at its annual auction, presented Lang with a check for $22,950 at Saturday's groundbreaking.
Dunham Construction of Maple Valley also has committed to donating drywall to the home, Henderson said, while Malone's Landscaping, based in Kent, will donate the landscaping, and Pacific Playground will donate play equipment for the Langs' children.
The club's procurement chairman, Storm McNeil, himself a Marine, had brought up the project for consideration.
Said Jim McEntire, Clallam County commissioner and retired Coast Guard captain:
“We are just delighted to be here to honor Cpl. Lang's service, and that of his family as well.”
Lang said his family chose the Port Angeles area because his wife has family in Washington and because of his fondness for the outdoors, especially camping, fishing and hunting.
He plans to start his own “makers' space” business, which he described as a place where people could work on their projects in a cooperative atmosphere.
“It's kind of an excuse for me to work on my own projects,” Lang said.
Lang said he did not have a timeline for when the home might be finished but that his family “wants to move as soon as we can.”
To donate or volunteer with the North Peninsula Building Association on the home-building project, phone the building association at 360-452-8160 or building association executive officer FaLeana Wech at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at email@example.com.