Marcus Kuboy occasionally thinks about what might have happened if his Humvee wouldn't have run over a bomb. He plays one scenario in his mind where God gives him a choice:
He could get into the same ill-fated truck, endure the most intense pain of his life, and resign himself to years of surgeries and medication, while enjoying a free house built by the kindness of strangers.
"'Or, you can get in a different truck and not get blown up and go to school and struggle through holding down a job and going to college, and working for everything you were going to get.' I would take the second one. I would not go through everything I have been through to receive all this," Kuboy said.
Kuboy admits he feels a little uncomfortable receiving a hero's "thank-you" with the construction of his new house.
"I didn't want to get blown up the morning I got blown up. I wasn't looking for these things to happen. When people say, 'You're a hero,' that's kind of hard to hear. I wasn't trying to do anything heroic, I was trying to get through the day," said Kuboy.
“I didn't want to get blown up the morning I got blown up...I wasn't trying to do anything heroic, I was trying to get through the day.”Mardcus Kuboy
About 100 volunteers are swarming with hammers and saws on the site of his future Woodbury home. A national nonpartisan group called Homes for Our Troops is coordinating the effort, while Minnesota credit unions are raising money. The house will be complete by September, when the Republican National Convention comes to St. Paul. Some convention staffers are lending a hand this week.
But the professionals are doing the real heavy lifting. The state's building and construction trades council enlisted dozens of contractors who are donating their sweat and expertise to build Kuboy's house.
Kuboy describes himself as a political moderate who has mixed feelings about the war in Iraq.
He was an infantry medic when a bomb ejected him from his truck more than a year ago. The explosive killed the driver, who was sitting directly in front of Kuboy. Days later he came to in a hospital in Germany.
Once he arrived in Washington D.C. to recover, his younger brother, Kip, joined him for about 10 months to help him recuperate. Kip was a roofer who, just a year before, had slipped on a patch of ice on a roof, shattering his back in 13 places.
With his brother at his side, Marcus remembers crying for three days, biting onto a towel and shouting over and over, "God, please take this pain from me."
But his little brother's words during his darkest days were even more memorable.
"He said, 'That experience will change you. No matter what, one way or another, you will either get bitter or better, you will not be able to stay the same. The choice is yours on which way you go. That has been profoundly true. I've seen a lot of people who have been hurt and let it consume them and can see nothing but the dark outcome," said Marcus.
Kuboy just left the VA two weeks ago and gets by on crutches. He plans to go back to college this fall nursing. And with his veteran's compensation, he won't have to worry about working full-time when he's in school.
While Kuboy is overwhelmed by all of the attention, he knows others find his story inspiring.
A carpenter apprentice waits for about a half an hour to shake Kuboy's hand and take his picture. The man tells Kuboy that there are everyday people who appreciate the sacrifice troops like him are making, but don't always get to express it.
The man says today, he'll express his gratitude with a hammer.