It's a military family from Michael Hulsey's great-grandfather on down. But when he discussed his plans to enlist with his mother in the spring of 2001, she expressed some reservations.
"Back then, I remember having a conversation with my mom. In response to her, I told her that it's peacetime for the military at present. Since the last war, there haven't been battles.” Hulsey replied, "I think I'm alright. Six months later, the towers fell.". One tragic event for so many people in so many communities shaped my whole life still does even today."
When he joined the military, he saw service in Iraq and Afghanistan. He suffered severe injuries during his second deployment to Iraq when an explosion rocked the Humvee he was riding. He was finally forced out of the military and unable to work or provide for his family. He and his family have unsuccessfully purchased a home in three separate attempts.
On Saturday, Wells Fargo gave the family the keys to a mortgage-free house in Goldfield.
Upon driving up to the home, we saw a lot of friendly faces, handshakes and hugs. That's what we're looking forward to, to feel as if we're part of a community," said Hulsey. "We're thrilled."
His journey to Goldfield, a town of just over 600 people in north-central Iowa, has taken many turns.
He went to Iraq for a year after 9/11 before returning home to be with his wife for their first son's birth. Despite Hulsey's intention to end his military service after that point, he decided to remain in the military.
"I'm missing the camaraderie, standing beside someone who would give their life to save you," said Hulsey. "There was something close and empathetic to it all."
After another deployment to Iraq and being injured in an explosion, Hulsey began to suffer pain.
Hulsey was knocked unconscious after being thrown into a radio inside the Humvee. I wasn't aware of my injuries until I returned to the States and went to a specialist. After hitting the steel radio mount inside the Humvee, I had ruptured discs in my lower spine and a traumatic brain injury.
After undergoing treatment, Hulsey, who was awarded a Purple Heart, deployed again to Afghanistan. But he was too injured. After serving as a sergeant in the Army, he was honorably discharged in 2011.
“I had started to lose my ability to walk," said Hulsey. “Following these injuries, they attempted reconstructive surgery. I had both hips replaced, the majority of my spine has been fused, most of my neck has been fused, my right shoulder has been replaced, and several abdominal surgeries due to these injuries."
Eventually, after a few more surgeries and recovery periods, Hulsey could no longer continue working, and he retired.
I enjoy spending time with my family and fishing now that I'm retired," said Hulsey. It's a blessing that I had a second chance at life, which most people don't have. Knowing that it's a lesson most people don't learn until later in life when it's too late to act or make corrections.
For Hulsey, one thing remained: a place where he could raise his family. The military family moved around so much that they didn't have a place to put down roots.
The Hulsey's have attempted to purchase a home three times since retiring. "Whether it's a surgery, a recovery or a family emergency, something would always take our savings back."
Military Warriors Support Foundation accepts applications to match veterans with mortgage-free homes.
In finding the home on their website, Hulsey's wife thought, "Well, we have all the documents anyway, and let's submit them and see what happens." Seven days after my wife submitted the application paperwork and our life story, we were notified and informed of being awarded this home in Iowa. "Today is our first day in our first-ever residence."
Over 900 homes have been given to veterans in all 50 states since 2010.
He says, "we do so little, but they've seen the worst that humanity can offer," According to John Hill, the foundation's media manager. The least we can do is make sure they have a safe place to live and set them up for success."
Since 2012, Wells Fargo has granted veterans over 400 mortgage-free homes and 40 free cars.
He felt a sense of weight lifted off his shoulders as he toured the home, said Angela Kruse, Wells Fargo's senior social impact and sustainability specialist. We must assist and support servicemen and women in their financial goals, particularly veterans returning to civilian life after serving their country."
Hulsey said he was glad to see his new home and looks forward to building a life there. It was important to leave something to my children and wife to connect with the community immediately," he said. "We couldn't have found a better place to live."