North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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March 11, 2013

Hero's welcome: Injured Iraq War veteran is given new home

HAYDEN — Last week, Jonathon and Robin Davis received the gift of a lifetime when they were handed the keys to their new house.

“It seems very surreal. It’s overwhelming,” said Robin a few minutes before she and Jonathon saw the inside of the house for the first time. “It’s a feeling like winning the lottery.”

The couple, married almost 10 years, applied to receive a house through the Military Warriors Support Foundation. They qualified in part because Jonathon was badly injured on Jan. 12, 2010, in Mosul, Iraq, while serving in the U.S. Army. Three years later, on Jan. 17, he was medically retired.

Jonathon served more than nine years in the military: Four years in the U.S. Navy in the aviation field and five years in the U.S. Army infantry.

He served three tours in Iraq — one with the Navy and two with the Army.

The Davises were devastated by Jonathon’s forced retirement.

“He had a career, and that was taken away,” Robin said. “Everything was gone.”

They also thought their dream of owning their own house was up in smoke, because Jonathon is unable to work. He is working to get government benefits started.

“We had military housing, and then we were out in the civilian world. We thought we would be renting forever,” Robin said. “Now it’s like a dream come true.”

The donation was the result of several organizations pulling together: The Military Warriors Support Foundation, Realty South and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (the bank acquired stockbroker Merrill Lynch in 2009) all worked to get the couple into the new home.

The house was in foreclosure, owned by Bank of America. Teresa Ballard of Realty South was the listing agent on the property.

When the details of the donation were worked out with the Military Warriors Support Foundation, Ballard coordinated with Bank of America to have the house renovated, repaired and cleaned up.

Ballard said she has worked with house donations before, but this was her first military donation.

“It’s been great,” said Ballard, who lives nearby in Smokerise. “It’s really special because it’s in my own community.”

Two representatives of Bank of America Merrill Lynch were at the key ceremony, Fran Buchan and Ric Sjostrom. The donation was special to both of the men because they are also military veterans.

Buchan said his organization plans to donate up to 1,000 homes to military veterans and first responders by the end of 2014.

“Bank of America has supported the military since 1920,” he said, adding that the company since 2009 has donated $5 million to nonprofit organizations that support military members.

The Military Warriors Support Foundation was started in 2007 and has donated almost 300 houses to military veterans so far. Last week’s donation was the organizations’ first in Alabama.

“This means a lot,” Jonathon said. “It’s great there’s a foundation out there to help people in transition from the military, to help soldiers and their families.”

The family has received help from others, too. Numerous family and friends have volunteered to help with moving and other costs. Also, the Davises said the Blount County Water Authority waived the deposit when officials there learned of the couple’s situation. 

The Davises are from Henagar, just north of Fort Payne, but they have family nearby. Jonathon’s father lives in Cullman and Robin has a daughter and other family in Tuscaloosa.

The donation was made on March 6; the couple had planned to move over the weekend and be settling in by now in their new home.

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