Rucker surprises local vet

Darius Rucker (left) presented local veteran Daniel Branham (right) with the keys to a new, paid-for home in Mount Pleasant on the “TODAY Show” with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.

Darius Rucker handed the keys of a mortgage-free home in Mount Pleasant to a local veteran on NBC’s “TODAY Show” on Wednesday.

Rucker and retired Gen. Leroy Sisco, the director of Military Warriors Support Foundation, surprised veteran Daniel Branham on the program with the house and tickets to one of Rucker’s upcoming shows.

“Daniel is an American hero. The things he did while he was deployed, he’s just an amazing guy. And he’s from my neck of the woods,” Darius said while sitting next to Branham on the set with hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. “We’re going to be neighbors.”

Branham said he’s a longtime fan of Rucker’s music, and appeared stunned when he was surprised with the ceremonial key to his new home.

“My family is a huge fan of Mr. Rucker, even when he was in Hootie & the Blowfish. I was a big fan then, and it’s just amazing to see him excel in his career the way he has, and even more exciting to meet him,” he said on the air.

The Charleston-based country singer and founder of Hootie & the Blowfish is giving away 11 homes while on tour this summer promoting his latest album “Southern Style,” The nationwide tour kicks off Thursday in New Jersey.

The home giveaway is funded through a partnership with Wells Fargo, and is also sponsored by Walmart, Military Warriors Support Foundation and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group’s Project Rebuild.

Branham, a Charleston native, became an Army specialist in 2005 and served 15 months in Iraq, where he sustained multiple combat-related injuries from improvised explosive devices. While injured, he drove his Stryker, an Army defense vehicle, to rescue nine of his fellow soldiers from a chlorine gas attack, according to a joint release from Rucker and sponsors of the home giveaway.

“Specialist Branham solely delivered his fellow soldiers from immediate danger and further injury. His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect distinct credit upon himself, Iron Company, 3rd Squadron (Wolfpack), 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment (Dragoons) and the United States Army,” the statement said.

Branham was awarded many medals for his actions, including the Army Commendation Medal.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail