Welcome home: Wounded veteran presented keys to new house
Vail Veterans Program, Military Warrior Support Foundation partner to support wounded veterans
Sam Whitman says he spent more months overseas than he did in his own home during his eight years as sniper for the U.S. Army. He suffered several injuries when his jeep was blown up and rolled over several times in Iraq from multiple IED blasts.
Suffering a traumatic brain injury, PTSD, back and neck injuries and the loss of feeling in his arm, he returned back to the states needing some help getting back on his feet as a civilian. His identity had been stolen while deployed and finding a loan for a home was proving to be a challenge. He had always had a dream of owning his own property, raising German Shepherds and spending time with his wife and daughter.
“There’s a lot of organizations out there that I applied for and never heard anything back,” Whitman said at the Country Club of the Rockies in Edwards on Thursday. “This organization got me a free house — it’s a dream come true.”
Through a partnership between Military Warrior Support Foundation and the local Vail Veterans Program, as well as support from Wells Fargo, Whitman was ceremoniously awarded the key to his home during the annual charity golf tournament at Country Club of the Rockies.
The house is in the small town of Mountain View, Wyoming, and is about 4 times the size of any house Whitman’s ever lived in, sitting on 2 acres of land.
“I guess it’s like winning the lottery,” he said. “We got awarded this house and it’s more than I could ever ask for. It means the world to me.”
To date, Military Warrior Support Foundation has awarded over 800 mortgage-free homes, saving veterans and their families over $230 million, said Doug Bailess. The organization also provided a three-year mentor program, helping veterans transition to civilian life.
Bailess and Vail Veterans Program founder Cheryl Jensen met years ago and decided to collaborate.
“When you can work together it’s always better,” Jensen said.
The Vail Veterans Program is celebrating 15 years of providing services for veterans.
“That very first year when seven of them stepped off the plane at the Eagle airport, I was on the tarmac thinking what are we doing,” Jensen said of the local group that supports wounded veterans from all over by exposing them to the Rocky Mountains. “It was one young man at the end of the four days who said, ‘You changed my life.’”
So they did it again, and again and again and again. Jensen said 14 families have move to Denver after visiting Colorado with the Vail Veterans Program.
“This is what happens when people get together and communities get together, you can move the world and you can change lives,” said Country Club of the Rockies general manager Bill Hughes.
For Whitman and his wife, Brittney — and their dogs Loki, Leonidas and Valentino — they won’t have to worry about moving any time soon.
“I’m at a point in my life where I don’t have to worry about somewhere to live or a house payment,” said Whitman, who is in his early 30s. “I feel like I got fast forwarded down the road in my life, so I can’t thank these guys enough.”
At the golf tournament, close to 20 veterans were in attendance.
“Hats off to these people — they are why we get to live the lives we do,” said Chad Hansen, head golf professional at Country Club of the Rockies.
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Eagle County Schools has released a draft document detailing how the school district intends to return in-person and hybrid instruction starting Aug. 18.