Like many military veterans, former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant and Purple Heart recipient Jeremiah Busby struggled with the transition home. Busby, who served two tours of duty as a sniper in the Iraq War, sustained severe injuries in a blast from an improvised explosive device to his Humvee. He recovered from the physical injuries, but his struggle with psychological injuries complicated his return to civilian life.
“I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t go to stores,” Busby said. “I was always in the mode of ‘someone’s after me’ or ‘someone’s going to try to get me’ or ‘someone’s going to try to kill my family.’“
Busby suffered in silence for two years while working, taking college classes, and incurring debt, until he finally found help with Military Warriors Support Foundation. The nonprofit helped Busby with his post-traumatic stress and, in 2014, Busby received a mortgage-free home donated by Wells Fargo through the foundation’s Homes4WoundedHeroes program.
“Words can’t describe how grateful we are,” Busby said. “This was a way for me to deal with my issues and not fear where we’re going to live or if we’re going to be able to pay rent.”
Busby is one of more than 300 combat-wounded veterans since 2012 who’ve received mortgage-free homes — with a total value of over $50 million — donated by Wells Fargo. Homes have been donated in all 50 states.
“Wells Fargo is an amazing company and I’ve done business with them for years, so I always was very impressed. But I’m blown-off-the-wall impressed with them now for what they do,” said retired Lt. General Leroy Sisco, founder and CEO of Military Warriors Support Foundation. “They help our heroes so much.”
Veterans who receive the mortgage-free homes are given three years of financial mentoring after they move in to help them manage the responsibilities of homeownership. Upon completion, they’re presented the deed to their home.
For Busby, who will receive his deed at the end of the month, the benefits of the financial education are evident.
“We actually went in with probably about $45,000 in debt, and now we’re down to about $19,000,” Busby said. “We would have never been able to do that without proper counseling and pointing us in the direction of the right people that could help us.”
Putting veterans back in the driver’s seat
Former U.S. Army Sergeant and Purple Heart recipient Tristan Brown found himself relying on an old vehicle with an oil problem as the sole transportation for his family, which includes three small children. That is no longer an issue now that Wells Fargo Dealer Services worked with its network of 14,000 car dealer customers to purchase a new minivan for Brown and his family.
With more than 60 percent of military veterans living in rural areas with no public transportation, Wells Fargo Dealer Services is helping support Military Warriors Support Foundation’s Transportation4Heroes program to provide payment-free vehicles to veterans who need them.
“It’s going to be huge for us to have two vehicles,” Brown said. “I can go to my VA appointments and they can still have a vehicle at home.”
Dealers who provide the vehicles below cost to Wells Fargo are happy to support those who’ve served.
“Our dealer customers love the opportunity to be able to work with Wells Fargo to support veterans,” said Darrell Campbell of Wells Fargo Dealer Services. “Our customers really appreciate the fact that we’re involved in the community and giving back like we are.”
Giving at golf events
Brown received his minivan during the Wells Fargo Championship last week in Wilmington, North Carolina, at an event honoring military service members and veterans. He was recognized along with U.S. Marine Corps veteran Randy Curtis, who received a mortgage-free home.
“It means the world to me,” said Curtis. “I look forward to working with Military Warriors and having them help me take care of everything and become more financially responsible.”
Busby, who received his home in 2014, became a two-time recipient when he received a new red pickup truck at an event honoring military service members and veterans at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio — another golf tournament that Wells Fargo sponsors.
He was recognized alongside fellow retired U.S. Army Specialist and Purple Heart recipient Cody Miller, who received a mortgage-free home in which to raise the daughter he and his wife are expecting later this year.
“It means everything to be able to say to my wife, ‘This is our home. This isn’t borrowed. This isn’t rented. This is ours and nobody can take it from us,’“ Miller said.