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Military veteran thankful for a home this Thanksgiving

Sean Butterfield and his wife, Nicole Butterfield, will

Sean Butterfield and his wife, Nicole Butterfield, will soon move into their new home in Medford. Credit: Johnny Milano

A military veteran is thankful this Thanksgiving for the new house in Brookhaven Town that he’s preparing to move into.

Sean Butterfield, 35, who is now living in Coram, is a married father of three school-aged children. He served in the Marines, but has struggled with finding permanent housing.

He joined the Marines in 2003, chasing his patriotic dreams of serving the country.

“It’s basically what I was meant to do,” the veteran said. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and served two tours that totaled 14 months in Iraq between 2005 and 2007. While there, he handled heavy equipment and made air conditioning units and armor for Humvees.

What he came back to was a different story. He first found housing on a couch at his parents home. 

A short time later, Butterfield and his family moved into an apartment, but flooding became a problem.  He also blamed the apartment for his children often getting sick. 

He was short on options and continued “couch surfing” with his wife, Nicole Butterfield. 

Life on Long Island was getting hard, said Butterfield, who was providing for his family on a ShopRite grocery store income.

He was ready to pack up and move his family away from the Island when, through a vigorous internet search, or fate, or both, his wife stumbled across the United Veterans Beacon House. The nonprofit is based in Bay Shore and provides housing to veterans.

As fortune would have it, the group was looking for a veteran to occupy a new Medford home.

“The stars just aligned,” said Jacqueline DeLeonardis, vice president of the Beacon House. “They couldn’t sustain where they were and they had no alternatives.”

The $700,000 home has four bedrooms and two bathrooms with a large kitchen and backyard. A vacant and abandoned home used to be on the property before being razed. 

“This family is going to have an amazing life there. Their kids are already in the school district. It’s a perfect fit,” DeLeonardis said.

Butterfield said he is waiting for Brookhaven Town to issue a certificate of occupancy on the house. It doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be in the house by Thanksgiving, but he’s thankful his family will have a permanent place to rest their heads.

“It saved my life,” the military veteran said. “There isn’t a word in the dictionary to describe it.”

And he still plans on getting his hands dirty for Thanksgiving dinner. “I’m making the turkey,” he said, promising it will be tender and delicious. “I hate dry turkeys. I’m not OCD about a lot of things but I have to baste it every 30 minutes.”

He admitted he didn’t make it to turkey perfection overnight. “I’ve burned a few," Butterfield said. “You gotta go through the hard to get to the gold.”

The United Veterans Beacon House celebrates its 25th anniversary on Thanksgiving.

The nonprofit provides emergency, transitional and permanent housing for veterans and has 42 locations across Long Island.

On any given day more than 255 men, women and children from the tristate area benefit from programs that address homelessness, physical disabilities, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain Injury, mental health issues and addiction.

Nonveterans, too, have access to housing, drug/alcohol addiction services and job skills/readiness development programs.

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