More than 60 Elizabethtown residents provided cheers, applause and hugs to stage a hero’s homecoming that an Iraq War Purple Heart recipient and his family are unlikely to forget.
But retired Army Sgt. Roy Lee, 35, and his wife, Alicia, 34, have something more tangible to be grateful about regarding their move Thursday from New Castle to the southeast Bartholomew County town.
The couple and their children are being given a five-bedroom house with two-car attached garage free with only one string attached.
The Lees must successfully complete three years of free family and financial mentoring before they get the deed to the property at 204 Pennsylvania St. on Elizabethtown’s east side.
The remodeled ranch-style house, obtained through foreclosure and donated by Bank of America, was channeled to the family through the Military Warriors Support Foundation.
The 7-year-old San Antonio-based foundation uses corporate and individual donations to award mortgage-free homes to wounded heroes injured during combat.
Families living under unique circumstances receive special consideration for a free home through the foundation.
In this case, the unique circumstances include the need to care for six children: Haley, 16; Aaron, 15; Andrew, 13; Mason, 11; Ashton, 7; and Avan, 3.
“Due to injuries or other complications, some military folks coming out of the war just need a little more help,” Bartholomew County Veterans Service Officer Tom Crawford said. “This is just one way to assist them in starting a new life.”
While Roy Lee’s eyes were hidden by sunglasses, his soft voice quivered with emotion as he spoke Thursday to his new neighbors minutes after pulling up to his new home for the first time.
“Before I went to do the things I did (in the Middle East), I took a lot for granted,” Lee said. “And now, after seeing how other people live elsewhere in the world, I’m just so proud to be an American.”
The New Castle native joined the Army in March 2004. After completing boot camp, he was assigned to Fort Drum, New York, before his unit was deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006.
While the infantry squad leader for the 10th Mountain Division was wounded during his first assignment in Iraq, Lee served a second tour of duty in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.
After serving seven years, Lee had obtained the rank of sergeant before he was discharged in November 2011.
Bank of America has successfully fulfilled a commitment it made two years ago to donate 1,000 properties to military members and their families, corporate representative Errek C. Suhr said.
While some homes are provided directly to those families, others are sold on the market with the proceeds donated to veteran groups such as the Military Warriors Support Foundation, Bank of America spokeswoman Mickey Shroyer said.