Volunteers Honor Hometown Veterans During Habitat Veterans Build

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Staff report

Boca residents and company employees teamed up to serve those who served the country during South Palm Beach County Habitat for Humanity’s VETERANS BUILD last month.

Kicking off the city’s Veterans Day festivities, more than 200 volunteers participated in the annual build, which transformed 10 homes in the city’s New Pines neighborhood.

Two home revitalization shifts were made possible by a generous gift from Vertical Bridge and grant funding from Home Depot/Team Depot.

In between sessions, the lunch program featured keynote speaker Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Pollack who was shot down over Vietnam on his 78th combat mission and captured a few weeks before then Navy pilot John McCain. Their relationship began “through the wall” that separated their adjoining cells. Pollack currently serves on the Boca Raton Airport Authority and is board president of Boca-based Vets Helping Heroes that was started by another POW to provide service dogs to active duty military and retired vets.

Veterans then introduced themselves and said their branch of service and rank as Pollack gave each comrade a warm handshake and presented them a coveted, commemorative challenge coin.

During the program Vertical Bridge Co-founder and Executive Vice President Bernard Borghei presented a check to Habitat for $25,000.

Two of the hometown veterans joined in the revitalization of their own homes:

John Brown, a Philadelphia native, joined the military aboard the USS Independence at the age of 19 serving as an electrician during the Vietnam War. Upon his relocation to South Florida John with his wife Iola, the couple noticed that there was a lot to be done in the Pearl City community in Boca Raton and were determined to give back. In 2001, Mr. Brown began to build houses with Habitat and working “on the front line” for 17 years alongside those battling financial instability in Pearl City that was historically challenged with poverty and crime.

Andrew Capellini is a US Air Force veteran who was stationed at Hurlbert Field Military Base in Okaloosa County, Fla. Hurlburt Field has a long and distinctive history; it is home to the Air Force Special Operations Command and the 1st Special Operations Wing. Andrew and Jamey have a blended family, daughters, Jenna (13), Leila (12), Aurora (8) and son Noah (1).  Andrew works at Crain Atlantis Engineering in Deerfield Beach and Jamey as a nurse’s aide.