HOUSTON – In a Deer Park neighborhood, people lined the streets, waving American flags to welcome home an American hero.
Army Specialist Will Thomas, a combat engineer, was severely wounded while serving in Afghanistan in 2011 when the protected vehicle he was in was hit by a 180-pound improvised explosive device.
The blast shattered his right leg and ankle, left him with severe head and back trauma and many more internal injuries.
Today, he and his wife Shanelle are being awarded the keys to their new home, thanks to the Texas Sentinel Foundation, a non-profit that provides 100 percent mortgage-free, ADA compliant, fully furnished homes to post-9/11 veterans.
It’s a moment Kimberly Stephens and Melissa Shechter have waited well over a year for. The Re/MAX 5 Star Realty agents have been working with the Texas Sentinel Foundation to make it all possible. They put together golf tournaments and other fundraisers to purchase and rehab the perfect home for the family.
About a year and a half ago, they were inspired when they saw another Re/MAX company award a recipient a new home.
“It's more than money can buy. It's the feeling that you get being able to give back on a grander scale to somebody,” Kimberly Stephens said.
“This was a way we could help. A lot of times, it seems the veterans are forgotten. This way, we could step in and actually be helpful,” Melissa Shechter said.
Will Thomas said they have been helpful in a way most people may never understand.
“Oh my gosh, it's been overwhelming. I cannot express how happy I am to receive a home, to be able to call something my own. I'm really ecstatic,” Thomas said.
Recipients are typically selected by word of mouth. A lot of military hospitals know about the program. People can also apply online through the Texas Sentinel Foundation’s website, TexasSentinel.org.