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For 6 war vets, Islandia housing comes 'just in time'

Marine Staff Sgt. Shawn Hunkins, 27, and his

Marine Staff Sgt. Shawn Hunkins, 27, and his wife Andrea Hunkins, 29, with their three daughters Natalia, 12, Arianna, 2, and Elaina Hunkins, 9 months in front of their future home at The Veterans Way in Islandia. (Sept. 24, 2013) Credit: Heather Walsh

Six post-9/11 veterans will be home for the holidays this Christmas -- in houses built especially for them in a new, all-veterans subdivision in Islandia.

The three-bedroom houses are being built by a local builders organization with donated materials and labor, on land donated by CA Technologies, and will be sold for $199,000 each. That is less than half what they would normally cost, according to Long Island Home Builders Care Development Corp., the organization building the houses.

For Paul Milazzo, 28, a former Marine Corps lance corporal now living in Valley Stream, the home could not come at a better time. His wife, Marianne, is expecting their first child in a few weeks.

"I think it's great that we all have a military background in common," said Milazzo, as he and his soon-to-be new neighbors walked through the building site, a 3.5-acre tract on Motor Parkway. "We have all been brothers, and always will be."

The six veterans were chosen by a panel of Veterans of Foreign Wars post commanders from among some 130 people who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The homes are expected to be completed by the end of November.

Each of the other recipients -- Jason Broyles, 32, of North Bellmore; Shawn Hunkins, 27, of Bohemia; Eric Petry, 28, of East Islip; Thomas Schreiber, 32, of East Rockaway; and Timothy Ward, 33, of Bayport -- has said the high cost of housing threatened to thwart their desire to live on Long Island, close to family and friends.

Military families often find it difficult to save up money to buy homes on Long Island. A lower-ranking lance corporal like Milazzo earns a base pay of about $24,000 per year after four years of service.

Hunkins, a Marine Reserve staff sergeant, is living with his wife and three children in his in-laws' basement in Bohemia. Petry, a recently discharged Marine with a wife and daughter, splits time between his parents' and his in-laws' homes.

"Without this, I'd never be able to afford Long Island," said Milazzo, who until recently was living with his in-laws in Ronkonkoma. "For us, this comes just in time."

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