From the barracks to the backyard: Helping our veterans find their way home
For the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces, returning to civilian life can pose many unique challenges. Programs like Homes4WoundedHeroes are helping veterans re-acclimate to life back home.
Active members of the military find their lives built around schedule and routine. Each day, between reveille and taps, the military provides their basic needs — food, housing, medical care, and a paycheck — so that they can remain focused on the more immediate and often dangerous demands of their roles.
As a result, returning to those daily responsibilities in the civilian world can create a feeling of culture shock. And, if a veteran has suffered an emotionally traumatic experience while serving or a service-related injury, the challenge is often even greater.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Harvey Calderon knows this challenge all too well. In 2010, Calderon was shot in his right leg while on his second deployment in the Middle East. The gunshot wound resulted in substantial nerve damage to his leg and ultimately resulted in his honorable discharge in 2012, which is when the Purple Heart recipient began the challenge of readjusting to civilian life.
“When veterans transition out of the military, it’s a complete change in lifestyle for them — they’re coming home to communities that maybe don’t fit them anymore, or they don’t have the right resources they need to take care of them,” said Andrea Dellinger of Military Warriors Support Foundation. “And so it’s incredibly important for us, as a nation, to embrace these heroes and ensure they have all the building blocks to help them through those various stages.”
Recognizing the critical need to help veterans successfully navigate their re-entry to civilian life, Military Warriors Support Foundation provides assistance and programs that facilitate a smooth and successful transition for our nation’s combat wounded heroes and Gold Star families, focusing on housing and homeownership, employment, recreational activities, and transportation assistance.
Adjusting to a 'new normal'
Since 2012, the organization’s Homes4WoundedHeroes program has worked with Wells Fargo to present more than 200 mortgage-free homes to veterans. Those efforts are part of Wells Fargo’s ongoing pledge to veterans, which includes employing 20,000 veterans by 2020 and offering career-transition assistance. Since 2012, Wells Fargo's Military Home Donation Program has teamed with nonprofits to donate more than 350 homes, valued at more than $55 million, to veterans in all 50 states.
“The collaboration between Military Warriors Support Foundation and Wells Fargo … has been instrumental in the success of a lot of transitions for our heroes — having them come home and have a foundation to start the next chapter in their lives,” said Dellinger.
In 2014, Calderon and his family received their mortgage-free home through the Homes4WoundedHeroes program.
“It’s hard to tell somebody how it feels for somebody to care enough to give you a mortgage-free home, and that's what Wells Fargo and Military Warriors Support Foundation has done for us,” said Calderon. “I'm just happy to have been given this opportunity.”
But the work of helping military veterans, like Calderon, adjust to a “new normal” doesn't just end with the ceremonial house key presentation. In addition to the home, each veteran receives three years of family and financial mentoring to help ensure they have the skills and know-how — for tasks like budgeting, paying bills, and home maintenance — to become happy and successful homeowners.
The three-year mentorship program utilizes Wells Fargo’s Hands on Banking® curriculum, which teaches people in various stages of life the basics of responsible money management.
Over the course of the three years, a deep relationship often grows between mentor and mentee.
That was the case for Calderon and his wife, Magdalena, who recently completed their three-year mentorship program.
“This home has blessed us completely and changed us for the better — and we’ve learned so much,” said Magdalena Calderon. “It was very scary at first when we had a new home, because we didn’t know anything about homeownership — paying taxes and maintenance — but we slowly started learning and our mentor, Christina, has become a friend … really, she’s become family.”