KILLEEN — An Army veteran and former Fort Hood soldier received the keys to a mortgage-free home from Wells Fargo and the Military Warriors Support Foundation in Killeen on Thursday.
Former Army Sgt. Michael Williams had dreams of making the military a career, but that dream quickly turned to a nightmare when he was injured while on a combat patrol in Iraq. Williams, who spent almost 10 years in the Army as a cavalry scout, was hit by an explosively formed projectile while deployed to Iraq in 2011 with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team.
“I got some shrapnel across the face, I got some on the side and mainly the force of the (explosion) debilitated me,” Williams said. “I received nerve damage as well.”
Williams was medically evacuated to Germany and eventually to Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio. The recovery from his injuries would take more than a year and required injections in his back and physical therapy. Eventually Williams returned to Fort Hood and realized that he wouldn’t be able to stay in the Army, eventually being medically separated from the Army in 2013.
“I couldn’t take the pain, I couldn’t focus on the job, I couldn’t sleep and I knew I couldn’t get back physically to where I was,” Williams said.
Williams continued to suffer from debilitating nerve pain despite receiving medical care, which made maintaining employment difficult. He attempted employment as a commercial truck driver but ran into several poorly-run businesses that deepened his financial burden. It was at this point that Williams life became hectic.
“I got into some bad companies and I got stiffed so many times and I decided I needed help,” Williams said.
Williams said some friends of his became concerned and urged him to reach out to the Military Warriors Support Foundation.
“A few of my friends were already in the program and they saw me declining and were worried about me and told me I needed to check the program out,” Williams said.
Williams applied and was selected to receive a mortgage-free home. He said receiving the home has been like winning the lottery and will give to stability to his wife Sheri, 7-year-old daughter Heather and 9-year-old son Conner.
“It was amazing, like winning the lottery, it can’t get any better,” Williams said. “It’s definitely helped us out financially; we were struggling so much, this is just a big stress reliever. It’s so great to be stabilized finally.”
The Military Warriors Support Foundation is a non-profit organization created in 2007 by retired Lt. Gen. Leroy Sisco with the mission of helping wounded heroes and Gold Star Families. The foundation works with banks and lenders to fund programs that provide home donations, school and employment assistance and help with obtaining transportation.
“Veterans have to be combat injured, Purple Heart recipients preferred, which is how they get qualified,” said Ashley Clyne, an event coordinator with the foundation.
Clyne said the foundation processes the applicants and verify their service and combat injury, and to ensure they can afford to cover property taxes and other home-owning associated costs.
“They have to get homeowners insurance, they have to pay their own utilities, but the homes are 100 percent mortgage free,” Clyne said.
Clyne said the deeds to the home remain with the foundation for three years, during which time Williams will receive financial mentoring. At the end of this period, the deed will be transferred to the homeowner.
To date there have been 896 mortgage-free homes donated, with 151 homes in Texas alone.
Clyne said those wishing to apply for the foundation’s programs or wanting to help can visit its website at www.militarywarriors.org.