TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay native and retired U.S. Army Sergeant is moving into his newly renovated, mortgage-free home gifted to him by the Military Warriors Support Foundation on Thursday.
Derek Austin served in the Army from 2006 to 2011, when he was medically retired.
He received numerous military awards for his service, including the Purple Heart for his efforts during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Austin recently got a phone call that changed his life.
The foundation, through its Homes4WoundedHeroes program and with assistance from Wells Fargo, let Austin know he was getting the home.
“It’s an incredible experience. It’s just one of those type of things that you’re so used to giving all the time that you’re almost reluctant to receive and just don’t know how to put that into words. The only word I can say is ‘incredibly grateful,’” Austin said.
He explained to 8 On Your Side the process was quick, taking just between two and four months from when he got the phone call, to Thursday’s moving day.
Austin called it overwhelming.
“Because homeownership is one of those things when you think about, that’s a 15-30 year time arising depending on how you approach that situation and to have that streamlined and sped up to basically overnight… it’s an incredible, overwhelming experience,” he said.
The Military Warriors Support Foundation thought of everything for the home, from a welcome mat at the door, to brand new appliances.
Austin said it was “almost literally a dream come true.”
“So not only did they set you up by giving you a mortgage-free home, they also took care of all the incidentals that could be popping up over the next couple years,” he explained.
Austin was stained out of Fort Hood and his first deployment was in 2008. He served in Iraq for 15 months before coming back to the United States for a year.
He then redeployed with the 401st Military Police Company, serving 12 months in Afghanistan, where he received the Purple Heart.
To learn more about the Military Warriors Support Foundation click here.