Daniel and Kasey Dobay’s best Christmas present ever isn’t under their tree. Their tree is actually inside their best present ever.
USMC Corporal Daniel Dobay and his wife have been given a four-bedroom, fully-furnished, mortgage-free home in Berkshire Forest through a joint effort of Pulte Group’s Built to Honor Program and Building Homes for Heroes, Inc.
They moved in on Veteran’s Day and he says they still can’t believe it.
“There are so many people out there who have nothing and are struggling and don’t have the things I have that make my life great,” he says. “My wife…my family…my home, everything I have is a gift.”
Dobay’s gratitude and humility have not gone unnoticed by the folks who gave the couple their home.
“There’s no one more deserving than Daniel and his wife Kasey,” says Robin McCord, the HOA/DRE Manager of the Coastal Carolina Division of Pulte Group.
“He’s a selfless individual, and as soon as I met him, he wanted to know how he could give back to the veterans at Coastal,” says Gregory Nance, director of Veteran’s Services at Coastal, one of several people who recommended Dobay for the honor.
A 300-pound homemade explosive hit the mine-resistant ambush vehicle Dobay was a gunner in on March 9, 2011 in Afghanistan, during his second tour of duty there.
After surgeries there, more surgeries in Germany and even more in Portsmouth, Virginia, Dobay’s left leg was amputated, and he was left with traumatic brain injury, injuries to his back, and disappointment that his military career was over.
Only 7 ½ years into that career, the Ohio native had hoped to make it his life’s work.
“Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be in the military,” he says, sitting at his rustic dining room table with his Bible and notebook at his side.
“I always played war growing up in the country, I loved marksmanship, and was always out with my dad shooting BB guns.”
The couple, married just over a year, met at a video game store where Kasey worked in Ohio, and moved to Myrtle Beach where she is originally from and where her family still lives.
The couple had been living in the Forestbrook area, in a three-story home not convenient for Dobay to maneuver with his disability.
Kasey Dobay says, “In my wildest fantasies, I never imagined this happening to me or my husband, and is truly a dream come true. We feel like we won the lottery.”
Pulte Group’s Built to Honor Program has provided close to 60 homes for veterans since the program began in 2013.
Building Homes for Heroes has helped hundreds of veterans since that program started in 2006, and in 2019, built more than 30 homes for them.
Dobay has been awarded a Purple Heart, a Letter of Appreciation NATO ISAF Afghanistan, Certificate of Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Rifle Qualification Sharpshooter and Pistol Qualification Sharpshooter.
When he was well enough, Dobay enrolled in Coastal where courses in philosophy and religion inspired him to convert to Catholicism.
Active in St. Michael Catholic Church in Garden City, Dobay and also works through St. James Catholic Church with the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at Coastal.
He studies the Scriptures daily and says his faith has helped him deal with the unexpected events in his life.
Kasey Dobay is a cosmetologist who works in Myrtle Beach.
His home, he says, is more than anything he and his wife ever dreamed of having.
He has a hard time choosing a favorite feature in it, but says he’d probably have to go with the game room.
Then he says the lighted alcove beneath the stairs for the couple’s dogs, Winter and Duke, is a close second.
Or maybe it’s the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the wooded back yard. Or the fully-equipped kitchen with the stainless-steel appliances and stone island.
No, he decides, he and his wife are “serious gamers,” and that room, where they spend much of their free time, is his favorite spot.
Kasey Dobay says, “Our level of comfort has increased exponentially from the first day we moved into this house, and I can even tell the dogs are happier with the bigger space.
“Watching Daniel be able to get around easier makes me the happiest, and we are so grateful for this house and wake up every morning pinching ourselves.”
Dobay doesn’t consider himself disabled, and says “I get around just fine.”
Yes, he has lower back pain and prolonged standing can present problems, but for the most part, Dobay considers himself “incredibly fortunate.
“I still don’t understand why I’ve been rewarded for doing something I chose,” he says about his stint in the military.
But that, Nance says, is typical of Dobay.
“The very first thing he did when he came here was find out how he can help other veterans, and I don’t see that often.
“This young man was obviously struggling with the injuries he sustained, but his first thought was how he could help other people.”