NEW RIVER, AZ - A big ‘welcome home’ was held for a Valley Vietnam veteran whose home burned down in a fire four years ago.
“I’ve been waiting three-and-a-half years, going on four years, to get back in my house,” said Jack Cooper.
Jack Cooper built his house 26 years ago in New River. Four years ago, an electrical fire burned his house down to the ground. The only thing that survived were two pictures of his times in the Navy.
“The fire started in the garage on the wall — on a wall outlet,” said Cooper.
In minutes, his entire life was gone. But, he was determined to rebuild.
“I knew I was going to do it — whatever it took,” said Cooper.
But, it wasn’t easy.
He would end up living in trailers over the next several years.The Arizona weather made it brutal to get comfortable.
“It was hot, and it was cold,” said Cooper.
Two years ago, Charlie Ellis and ‘Operation Enduring Gratitude,’ learned about Jack’s troubles and jumped on board to help. They’ve been committed to getting Cooper back into his house.
“When you realize you finally succeed through all the headaches, the funding, the volunteers, the resources, the networking.. completion; it’s a beautiful word,” said Ellis.
Nearly 300 volunteers, along with several other organizations including mostly veterans, came together to help build the house from the ground up.
Most of the materials including a lot of the furniture was donated.
“We utilized volunteers, I set up Facebook event pages, and people would show up, and we'd just grind it. Work it,” added Ellis.
‘Operation Enduring Gratitude’ is a veteran and non-veteran organization that brings veteran and non-veteran volunteers together to serve the veteran community and helps improve their quality of life.