Neighbors, media members, and notable guests lined the street waving American flags in the brisk wind. Texans punter Shane Lechler stood in the crowd applauding appreciatively. As a convertible pulled up carrying a noticeably gleeful veteran and his wife, family and friends erupted into cheers.
Welcome home, Lance Corporal Ceontre Shelton.
Shelton got the surprise of a lifetime last season when the Texans and Operation Finally Home told the veteran he and his then-fiancé Kendall were chosen to receive a custom-built, mortgage-free house in Houston. On Tuesday, Shelton and Kendall finally saw the finished product of their PulteGroup home in a Veteran's Day welcoming ceremony fit for a hero.
"It means a lot, it shows that my service didn't go unheard of," Shelton said of the outpouring of support he's received from the Houston community. "I'm pretty blessed to have everyone here. Grateful. I think the whole world is pretty much involved. I have a loss for words."
While serving in Afghanistan in 2011, Shelton's platoon was attacked and he was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). He suffered a left platella fracture, nerve damage, shrapnel scars, a traumatic brain injury and ultimately a below-knee amputation of his right leg. Shelton became a Purple Heart Recipient for his brave service and unwavering passion for his country.
Lechler took the time to express his admiration for Shelton and military members like him. While addressing the crowd, Lechler pointed out that football players sign contracts with the mentality of "how much can we get," whereas soldiers sign contracts thinking "how much can we give."
"To be able to do something, I mean this is so minor, but it's still gonna be a big deal for him and his family," Lechler said. "As far as us and the general public, it's a minor way to say thank you for what they've done for us."
Shelton expressed his gratitude countless times during the celebration and shared his personal story of how he obtained his injuries in Afghanistan. Though he laced the narrative with humor, it was clear to the audience just how much Shelton and his brothers in arms have sacrificed to protect America's freedom.
The Marine closed with a powerful statement, claiming that if he had to, he would endure all the pain of an IED again for each and every one of us.
"The way that he said he would do it all over again for any one of us, that's a tough pill to swallow," Lechler said. "I'm not sure that 95 percent of the rest of America could say that. That's why it takes a special person, and he is definitely a special person."