The smell of fresh paint permeates Pat Brown's home in Pasco.
The cheerful walls of blue, green, yellow and pink, clean windows and new carpet are a far cry from what the World War II veteran's home looked like 14 months ago, after a fire started in one of the bedrooms.
For a while, Brown, 89, didn't think he would get back into his own home after the fire that started Sept. 29, 2010, while he was at Pasco's St. Patrick's Catholic Parish.
However, one of the Army's few surviving Merrill's Marauders has quite a support group.
St. Patrick's Father Daniel Barnett helped connect Brown with Pasco attorney Brian Roach, said Mary Valencia, a friend of Brown's from church.
Roach worked with Brown to get Allstate -- Brown's insurance company -- to pay for the repairs, which were being finished Friday after a month and a half of work, she said.
Thanks to that assistance, NorthWest Restoration of Richland took the first floor of the house down to the studs and rebuilt it.
Brown, who has six children, has lived in the home for about 30 years. He moved to the Tri-Cities from California to be closer to his son, Mike, who lives in Burbank.
Since the fire, he has been staying in apartments and a motel room. He has had to pay rent and the mortgage at the same time, Valencia said.
Brown, who got out of the Army in 1945, suffered from nerve or vascular damage after serving in Burma and lives on permanent disability.
Merrill's Marauders, also known as the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), marched for about 1,000 miles behind enemy lines during World War II. Out of nearly 3,000 men, only Brown and a couple of hundred survived.
Their mission was to disrupt the Japanese supply lines and communication in Burma, the country now called Myanmar, as well as capture the Japanese air field and town of Myitkyina, according to the National World War II Museum of New Orleans.
Brown said Merrill's Marauders would steal rice from the Chinese to mix in their rations, which were slim and depended on air drops.
"We could hardly carry ourselves," said Brown, who was among the younger Army men on the long march.
Leeches were the worst enemy, he said. They would attach to their skin whenever the men trudged through rivers or standing water after monsoons. The easiest way to remove leeches was to burn them with a lit cigarette.
Brown, a member of the American Legion, said he used to volunteer on the honor guard, which perform the rifle salute at funerals of veterans and events such as Veterans Day.
Before doing that, Brown said he hadn't held a gun since the Army. While in Burma, a young boy stabbed Brown with a bayonet, and Brown said he had the finger on the trigger of his gun. He killed the boy, which haunted him for years.
Brown's home is only a couple of blocks from St. Patrick's and the American Legion. Every day, he goes to the church by 8 a.m. so he can open the doors to parishioners and get it ready for morning Mass.
On Friday mornings, he, Valencia and her 3-year-old son, Max, go out for coffee after Mass.
This past Friday, though, Brown also got to move back into his repaired home.
However, the work on his Park Street house isn't quite finished. NorthWest Restoration was hired by Allstate to repair the home, said Dean Sturdevant, NorthWest Restoration project manager. But the insurance is covering only what the fire damaged.
So, NorthWest Restoration electrician Tysen Gardner plans to gather a crew of volunteers Dec. 3 to finish fixing up Brown's home, Sturdevant said. That will include yard work, repairing the basement and hopefully, replacing the front stairs with a ramp to Brown's front door, Sturdevant said.
NorthWest Restoration will provide the tools and is donating supplies for the big cleanup, he said.
Although the interior of Brown's home is new, he lost things in the fire that can't be replaced. Those include some military records, letters from military buddies and a photograph of his mother and father.