29 Sep 2020 Home for a Hero
by Jeremy Higginbotham
A project of love, five years in the making, broke ground in early August when local builders Beth and Bret Franks welcomed the Hixon family to the site of their new custom-built, mortgage-free home in Conway. As part of the Operation FINALLY HOME program, members of the 501 community gathered to celebrate Marine Corps Purple Heart recipient Lance Cpl. Cory Hixon, as well as his wife Shala, and their children, Haizlett and Cru. The program provides homes to service members who are wounded, ill or injured as a result of their service.
In October 2004, Cory was deployed to Iraq to serve in Operation Phantom Fury. During his second tour, while conducting a resupply, he and his unit were attacked by insurgents with heavy mortar fire that resulted in a six-hour firefight that required air and tank support. After the unit captured three insurgents, a mortar struck five feet in front of him, producing a blast of shrapnel to his upper torso, face and left eye. Cory was medically evacuated for emergency surgery to enucleate his eye.
Because of his time in combat, Cory suffers from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, migraine headaches due to a traumatic brain injury, left eye enucleation, hearing loss and more.
VFW Patriot Guard Riders arrived by motorcycle and escorted the family to the groundbreaking and VFW Post 2259 Chaplain Richard Sharrock provided a prayer to begin the proceedings. Special messages were given by Bret and Beth Franks, of Bret Franks Construction. A presentation by Ronnie Lyles, project manager of Operation FINALLY HOME, thanked the various organizations of the 501 community for their support of this project.
Before the actual groundbreaking, Beth presented young Haizlett and Cru with a Toad Suck Daze gift in preparation for their 501 life. She spoke about the giving spirit that embodies the entire Hixon family and remembered a story of the first time she met the family.
“This story talks about the character of this family,” Beth remembered. “I asked Haizlett questions like, `what colors do you want in your room, what does your brother like and what about your mom?’ The daughter responded that her mom had always wanted a big white house.
“I got to say to that little girl, `Honey, your momma is going to get that big white house,’ and Haizlette just broke down. She was happy for herself, but in her heart, she was so humbled and excited that her momma was getting something. It just shows us about this amazing family you have built. We are so excited to welcome this family to Conway!”