SACO — Seven-year-old Liam Holbrook is full of energy, and so is his brother, 7-month-old Xander. The older boy grins for the camera ”“ everyone does ”“ for a family photograph. There’s a trimmed Christmas tree in the corner, and the family is relaxing at their rented apartment home in North Saco earlier this week ”“ just two weeks before Christmas.

Next year at this time, Liam, Xander and their parents, Waylon Holbrook and Nicole Eastman, should be six months or more into their own new, snug, energy-efficient, ranch-style home in Kennebunkport.

They’ll be in a home of their own, one they will help build, along with a whole lot more folks ”“ most who have something in common with Holbrook, 36. This Habitat for Humanity York County “build” will be the first ever built specifically for a veteran.

It was just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 when Holbrook decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. Three years later, he was with his unit, the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Cavalry, in Sadr City, Iraq, on Black Sunday, April 4, 2004. On that day, eight soldiers were killed and more than 60 wounded in a battle that lasted for hours. Holbrook saw lots of combat during his year in Iraq, he said.

Holbrook’s hitch wound down in 2005, but his military career is ever-present. These days, he’s vice president of a nonprofit agency called Lancer Legacy Ranch, which plans to provide a place for combat veterans to recover from their war experiences on a self-sustaining cattle ranch in Texas.

And he and Nicole have been wanting their own home for a while. Their apartment ”“ the ground floor of an antique farmhouse ”“ is large, but it’s drafty and the heating bills can be hefty.

They learned about the Habitat for Humanity York County veterans build in a story in the Journal Tribune Sunday newspaper. The group was looking for more applicants. Nicole, who is studying ethics and leadership in university and also on her way to being a yoga instructor, urged Waylon to apply.

He admits she pushed him.

“I didn’t want to feel like a ”˜needs’ person,” he explained.

Then, he found out that he and Nicole will sign a 25-year mortgage for the home, and that they’re expected to invest “sweat equity,” as its called, in the construction.

They can’t wait. The new home will be a stone’s throw away from where Holbrook was raised in Cape Porpoise.

They’ve already put in some sweat equity, helping to clear the land at 160 Beechwood Ave., which was donated to Habitat for Humanity York County by the town of Kennebunkport.

They haven’t cleared the land alone. A number of veterans have helped, and many veterans’ groups in York County are involved in the project.

At a meeting of the veterans, groups last week, Karl Huntley, who chairs the Southern Maine Veterans Memorial Committee, showed some blueprints he’d created. The home will be a three-bedroom ranch, with a open-concept kitchen and living area.

Habitat for Humanity York County Executive Director Steve Bolton said the Holbrook family was chosen from a field of 14 applicants.

“They’re jumping in with sweat equity, and they’ll be an asset, no question, to the wider community of the Kennebunks,” said Charles Whiston, Habitat’s liaison with the family.

Besides helping clear land, Holbrook is also volunteering at Habitat’s Re-Store and with a weatherization project.

Ground will be broken once all of the legal work associated with the land transfer is complete. Then, the veterans will set to work.

The home is expected to cost $135,000 to build. There have been a number of donations, including $10,000 from a man honoring his veteran brother, and whose company donated $10,000 more. With that and other donations, both cash and in-kind, there’s about $50,000 left to raise, Bolton estimated.

The project has support from former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, who has agreed to be honorary chairman.

Holbrook, Eastman and the boys visited at Walkers Point this fall, and were introduced to the former president, who is a World War II U.S. Naval Reserve veteran, and posed for a photo with him. The couple said Bush was friendly, spoke about his own military experience and took a shine to young Liam.

As the afternoon wore on, the lights twinkled on the Christmas tree. Next year, they’ll be twinkling in the family’s own home.

“It will be something to pass on to Liam and Xander some day,” said Eastman.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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