Soldier Sees Burned Down Home For The First Time

It was an unexpected sight in more ways than one.

"I'm not really known around here, but just to know that these people are supporting me is a great feeling," said David Renteria, a sergeant in the US Army.

Silently, they stood, few in number, with flags waving proudly--volunteers with "Welcome Home Soldiers."

"It was a hard because it would not be appropriate for us to be screaming and yelling, 'welcome home' because it's not really a great 'welcome home' for him," said Anne DeLaet, the group's organizer.  This homecoming was different.

"We're happy that he's here.  We're happy that he's safe, but we know that he is sad," DeLaet said.

Renteria was in Killeen when news first came earlier this week:  his home--built as a gift from his father-- was completely burned to the ground, Wednesday after being struck by lightning.

"It's nice to have a place to call home," said Renteria.  "Sometimes my father and I would come and we'd have our little one on ones, man to mans.  I made a lot of sacrifices to get what I had, and now it's gone."

His scars are not just emotional, but physical.  Last week, Renteria had surgery to have skin cancer removed from his face after serving several months in Iraq.

He said his training now has a use off of the battlefield.

"Being a soldier, we're taught to maintain bearing--you just got to take things with stride.  Things could be a lot worse at the end of the day," he said.

But he won't alone.....

Genni McNamee with "Welcome Home Soldiers" said she wanted to show Renteria that his service and sacrifice were appreciated, especially in the wake of the fire.

"His health and the safety of his comrades over in Iraq and Afghanistan, those are his concerns," she said.

Rosalie Howerton is also with "Welcome Home Soldiers."  She said she knows it helps to know that people are behind him and supporting him.

Layron Livingston, Reporting.