California town rallies to build house for wounded GI (video)
After his wife left him and his 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, his mother and stepfather became his caretakers.
In the Antelope Valley, he quickly became well known. The area, tucked into the farthest northeast corner of Los Angeles County and dotted by Joshua trees and sagebrush, is immensely proud of its ties to the military. The Air Force’s B-1B bomber was built here and it was at Edwards Air Force Base that legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.
The area, Kennedy says, contains more veterans per capita than any other place in the country.
Thus Hancock was honored often at public events. But after the fist bumps of hello and goodbye (he can’t quite use his hand to shake someone else’s), people would go their own way. They assumed, some said, that anybody that badly hurt must have a huge support group behind him. Hancock admits he let them think that.
"I don’t like to complain," he says quietly, adding the recurring dreams of burning to death in a tank were bad enough without revisiting them while awake.
Then Goodreau’s students took up his cause. He’d met her at several events and trusted her enough to open up to them.
Since then, he says, the nightmares have pretty much stopped as helping the students with their effort has given him a sense of purpose.
"They gave up their last summer of high school for me," he says in a voice filled with awe.
Actually, they gave up even more. Goodreau’s veteran projects normally end with the summer. This year’s group, whose members have already collected their A grades, vowed to continue the project they call Operation All The Way Home until Hancock has a new roof over his head, hopefully by next summer.
When asked why she’s continuing, Nicole Skinner, 17, who graduated in June and is now a college freshman, laughs.
"Just look at him, man. Many people these days are complaining about their lives and you look at him and what he’s been through, and he’s still smiling and all. He’s not complaining," she says. "He’s just so motivating."