More than two dozen American flags provided a patriotic backdrop Thursday as Northwest suburban high school students, police, firefighters and other volunteers began building a house in Spring Grove for a military veteran and his family.
Tony Chobanov of Naperville, an Army specialist who served tours of combat duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, expressed gratitude for the outpouring of volunteers constructing the four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 3,000-square-foot home his family hopes to move into by May 20.
Chobanov, who suffered a traumatic brain injury during his military service and received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, said he and his wife, Abbey, were particularly struck by the flags surrounding the construction site.
"It was amazing," Chobanov said while crews scurried behind him. "It was the coolest thing I ever saw."
Chobanov, his wife and four children were selected for the house by A Soldier's Journey Home, an Arlington Heights-based nonprofit.
Northwest Suburban High School District 214 students raised about $16,000 of $100,000 in cash that was donated for the roughly $400,000 project, with the balance from in-kind contributions, said A Soldier's Journey Home board member Chuck Frankiewicz of Arlington Heights.
Students from District 214's Rolling Meadows and Buffalo Grove high schools built the home's wall sections that went up Thursday. Frankiewicz said he was relieved to see the house rising.
"It's a combination of extreme excitement and a certain level of nervousness," he said. "One of the challenges of building a home in such a short time frame is that you've got to make sure that everything is here. For example, we have 20 windows. If you're one short, that's a problem."
Rolling Meadows High students Pedro Aguirre, Luis Martinez and Chris Hernandez were part of the work crew. The students, who are taking a Geometry in Construction class, said volunteering to help build a house for Chobanov carried great meaning because he was willing to risk his life for his country.
"I feel like I'm doing something good for the community and for him," said Martinez, a sophomore.
First Midwest Bank donated the vacant 1.3-acre site in Spring Grove for the house. Frankiewicz said other donations included excavating, concrete and electrical work.
At least 85 volunteers from 16 states are expected to participate in the project, with many of them police, firefighters and military veterans who helped on A Soldier's Journey Home's first two houses.
Chobanov, who has struggled financially since returning home from the Army in 2008 despite working long hours in the trades, said he joined the military to help in the war on terrorism. He said appreciates how others are now assisting him and his family.
"For the rest of our lives, me and my children are going to know these heroes built this house," he said. "What could have more meaning than that?"