MESQUITE (CBSDFW.COM) – What could have become a neighborhood eyesore — another lingering reminder of the foreclosure crisis — has instead become a new home for a wounded warrior. “I have a home,” said retired Army sergeant Jose “Joe” Reyna. “They presented me a home, mortgage free! What do you say to that?”
The amazement at his good fortune left Reyna searching for words more powerful than “thank you” on Thursday as he toured his new home in Mesquite. But the gratitude should be for him, not from him.
“We can’t even begin to thank you for the service and the sacrifice,” said Angela Vander Werf with Wells Fargo, as she ceremoniously presented Reyna an oversized cardboard key. “I hope it can help you get acclimated back into civilian life.”
Reyna served a 15-month tour in Iraq and was injured three times, earning two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with valor. So, while his tidy, new, brick home is mortgage free, it most certainly came at a cost. “We were ambushed and five of my buddies died,” Reyna recalled. “A lot of people were injured that day. Real bad experience. Very traumatic for me.”
Reyna suffered a brain injury in the attack that affected his speech and memory. He then spent a year and a half in rehab. Still, Reyna stressed, he is one of the lucky ones. “There’s no limit to what I can do now,” he said. “It’s like I have the support there for me.”
Wells Fargo has committed roughly $30 million to nonprofit foundations, working to provide housing for veterans over the next three years. It is, experts say, one of the most critical needs which face the millions of men and women service members transitioning from active duty to civilian life.
But bank officials said that putting owners in formerly distressed or abandoned homes strengthens communities — which is good for business. “We do the necessary repairs and then we donate it to the nonprofit, and they match it up with a good applicant,” Vander Werf said. Caseworkers with the Military Warriors Support Foundation then work with recipients for the next three years. “They hold their hand. They do financial literacy courses to ensure success, so it’s not an irresponsible donation.”
Reyna is already looking forward to family cookouts, starting college in the summer, and living the American dream which he fought to defend.
With an appreciative glance down the quiet, tree-lined street, he laughed. “I look forward to being here, living here, for a long time,” said Reyna.
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