WESLACO, Texas — She served in Kansas, Maryland and Japan for nearly nine years. And though retired Staff Sgt. Patricia Romero Horner was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army 27 years ago, for the first time on Wednesday, she came home.
A group of nonprofits and a bank gave Horner a 1,100 square-foot home in the Tesoro Estates subdivision in Weslaco.
The transaction closed Tuesday. After a day of readying the home, Horner, her four dogs and her fiancée, Marta Gonzalez, moved in Wednesday.
“I love it,” she said loudly as she walked through the front door, over the newly tiled floor and into the kitchen. “It’s so new! It’s beautiful. I can’t believe it. It’s outstanding — awesome.”
Until Wednesday, Horner and Gonzalez lived in McAllen at Horner’s sister’s home. The Weslaco home, which Bank of America donated after a 2012 foreclosure, is Horner’s first.
Gonzalez dabbed her eyes with a cloth as Horner spoke, shortly after receiving her keys from a Bank of America spokeswoman. Horner, 56, thanked her mother, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, and all the other groups associated with the gift.
“All I can say is it’s a dream come true. I never thought this would happen to me,” the former staff sergeant said.
Working with the nonprofit National Community Stabilization Trust, which partners with banks and local housing providers in neighborhoods struggling with foreclosure, Bank of America donated the home to the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.
TSAHC, an Austin-based nonprofit that works across the state to provide rehabilitated homes to low and moderate income people, partnered with Motivation, Education and Technology, a national nonprofit with offices in the Rio Grande Valley, to make necessary repairs on the home.
MET also found Horner and connected her with the program, according to a release from Bank of America and TSAHC.
The home was foreclosed in August 2012, according to public records. Although Horner will not have to pay a mortgage, she will still owe property taxes. The property was appraised at $87,666 this year, which would equal about a $1,800 tax bill.
Horner, a graduate of McAllen High School, served in the Army from 1978 to 1987. She was honorably discharged after a nervous breakdown in Fort Riley, Kansas, she said Tuesday. The federal Department of Veterans Affairs later deemed her 100 percent disabled.
Lucio, a Democrat whose district includes Weslaco, said the home donation for Horner was a symbol for honoring all Texas veterans.
“This shows the rest of the country how Texas feels about their veterans,” Lucio said. “The men and women from Texas will always be revered as great Americans and outstanding Texans that they are. And we shall never forget that they gave it their all, especially in a time of war, and we should give it our all. And they spoke loudly on the battlefield, and we should speak loudly here at home.”