The two-story house now has an elevator, an enlarged handicapped-accessible bathroom, railings and wider doorways, to make it easier for Horan, who walks with a brace. The house also has an improved deck, and a freshly mulched and weeded front and back yard.
“It’s amazing,” Patty Horan said. “It’s been a long journey, and this is a huge day of celebration. They removed half of his skull, part of the left side of his brain. There are fragments that remain lodged in his head. We didn’t know if he could speak or walk again. In the beginning, there was little to no hope.”
Patrick Horan leaned into the microphone, grinned and said, “That’s what they told me.”
It came together through a program for wounded veterans sponsored by Sears — “Heroes at Home,” which has helped rebuild homes for more than 1,000 veterans since 2007. Sears worked with Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit group that helps older and low-income people repair and stay in their homes.
Rebuilding Together — its Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church and Montgomery County chapters, particularly — lined up local contractors to provide free or reduced-price services for the Horan house. Nationally, the group helps repair 10,000 houses a year with the help of 200,000 volunteers, said Susan Hawfield, executive director of the Montgomery chapter.
With much of Horan’s rehabilitation taking place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, he and his wife had looked for a home in Montgomery County. But after being outbid for a house there, they turned to Northern Virginia, where they found a four-bedroom home and bought it in February. They have a service dog now: Wilson.
Old stamping grounds
The couple has roots in Northern Virginia. Horan, 39, is the son of retired Fairfax County General District Court Judge Richard Horan, and he grew up in Springfield and graduated from West Springfield High School. Patty Horan lived in McLean until she was 12, attended Kent Gardens Elementary School, then moved with her family to Richmond.
They attended Radford University, where Patrick played rugby and helped launch a women’s rugby team. That’s where they met, when Patty joined the women’s team. Patrick entered the Army after graduation in 1997, and he and Patty married in 2000.
After several years at Fort Lewis, Wash., and in Hawaii, Horan entered Officer Candidate School, was returned to Fort Lewis and was deployed to Iraq in 2006. On July 7, 2007, he was in Baghdad, working night missions to secure the streets, when he was struck by a sniper’s bullet. It went past his left ear, under his helmet and exploded when it hit his skull.