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For injured vets, a place to call home

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Building homes to rebuild lives
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dan Wallrath has been building homes for injured U.S. veterans and their families
  • Wallrath was named a Top 10 CNN Hero for his efforts with Operation Finally Home
  • He plans to use the $25,000 award to build more homes for families in need
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Editor's note: CNN Heroes received more than 10,000 nominations from 100 countries, and a Blue Ribbon Panel selected the Top 10 CNN Heroes for the year. Voting for the CNN Hero of the Year continues through November 18 (6 a.m. ET) at CNNHeroes.com. The winner will be announced at "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," which airs Thanksgiving night, November 25, at 8 ET.

(CNN) -- Since 2005, Texas homebuilder Dan Wallrath has given homes -- mortgage-free -- to injured U.S. veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the moment, Wallrath and his team at Operation Finally Home have 10 custom homes under construction.

Below are his thoughts on being chosen as a Top 10 CNN Hero.

CNN: Where were you when you got the call that you'd been selected as a Top 10 CNN Hero?

Wallrath: My wife, Carol, and I were on a trip celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. ... At first, I was numb. I did not know what to say. I actually started shaking.

When I was first nominated, I never thought in a thousand years that I would have ever been selected as a CNN Hero, let alone in the Top 10. When I hung up from the phone call and told Carol what I had just been told, I said: "I never could have dreamed when God laid on my heart to do this for our wounded families, that he had all this in mind. Now 20 million people will know about the struggles these young families face as they return to civilian life."

All kinds of emotions raced through me, knowing that now more help was coming for our true heroes.

CNN: How will you use the $25,000 award that you receive for being selected as a Top 10 CNN Hero, and what will this mean to your work?

Wallrath: The $25,000 I receive as a Top 10 CNN Hero will go entirely to Operation Finally Home so we can help more heroes that need homes.

Take the iReport Be a Hero challenge: Thank a veteran

CNN: As this honor began to sink in, what did you think about?

Wallrath: [I felt grateful to] everyone at CNN, for acknowledging the important work we as Americans need to do for our heroes -- the ones who sacrifice so much for what we do every day.