Kempner — Staff Sergeant Frank Laguna and his family know freedom isn't free.

Laguna spent almost 20 years in the Marines and the Army.

"I wish I had done more," Laguna said.

As it does for so many who have protected the stars and stripes, Laguna appreciates Independence Day.

He joined the service as a thank you to a country which accepted his parents who emigrated to the United States from Mexico.

"Being a veteran, a service member, it means a lot more," Laguna said. "Because I've seen and I myself have paid the ultimate price for it.

Eight years ago, Laguna was at Explosive Ordinance Training in Alabama when he had discomfort in his back.

Originally believed to be a pulled muscle, Laguna said eventually he couldn't walk and eventually doctors discovered he had a shattered vertebrae.

He couldn't walk.

"It was a big disappointment, I guess, in my self because it literally stopped me in my tracks," Laguna said. "I couldn't do it anymore."

The recovery process took him and his family to the Center for the Intrepid Warrior on Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he met other veterans like him from all branches of service.

Together, the group of 25 veterans helped each other make drastic strides in their recovery.

For instance, a year ago, Laguna was in a wheelchair.

Today, with the help of braces, he can walk.

But as June came to a close, the newly-formed family was looking for a change of scenery.

"We were brainstorming, 'What do we want to do?'" Laguna said. "'I'm going home, I live on six acres.' 'Oh, you live on six acres? In the country? Party at your place.' I guess we're having a party at my place."

Going to their house in Kempner is nothing new for many of the veterans they met at the CFI. On several weekends, the Lagunas have taken their friends or their kids home with them to provide the same change of scenery during recovery.

For Laguna's wife, Candace, welcoming their new extended family into their home was a no-brainer.

"I owe them," she said. "For everything. Because we were at a point in our world where Frank was not moving forward."

So, while these United States of America will celebrate its independence on July 4th, it will take on a new meaning for a newly-independent veteran from Texas.

"New beginnings," Laguna said. "Having our own freedom again."

For his wife, it's the return of life before the accident in 2010.

"For me, this Independence Day, I got my husband back."

And it's a day shared with 25 veterans in similar situations and their families -- at their second home in Lampasas County.