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Wounded veteran gets free home through program

It's taken Jake Hutchinson a while to get back on his feet. But after more than 20 surgeries, he is there.

Returning to his Afghanistan base from a routine night patrol on May 18, 2011, the Mine Resistant Assault Protected vehicle he was riding in drove over a 120-pound bomb that exploded. Both of Hutchinson's legs were shattered below the knee, and his upper left arm was damaged as well.

It happened just nine days before he was to ship home.

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And home is where he was on Wednesday, accepting a front-door key to a mortgage-free home given to Hutchinson and his wife through a partnership between Chase bank and the Military Warriors Support Foundation.

Hutchinson, who is 22 and from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, applied for one of the 1,000 houses being awarded to veterans nationwide. Chase offers unsold and foreclosed homes, and the military support group comes in and refurbishes them so they can be occupied by veterans and their families.

Hutchinson was recuperating at a rehabilitation center in Texas when he and his 20-year-old wife, Alexandria, reviewed a list of available houses around the country and decided on one at the corner of Feerwood Court and Rosewood Drive in Bloomington's Northwood Estates neighborhood.

"It's such an incredible gift, on so many levels," Hutchinson said while standing in the kitchen of his new home just a day after being released from the Iowa National Guard. "It's a fresh start, a place to start over and to have something of our own."

They intend to move to their three-bedroom Bloomington residence in January. Both he and his wife plan to enroll at Indiana University.

Bertie Lehman from Northwood Estates' neighborhood association was there at the house Wednesday afternoon to welcome Hutchinson and tell him about upcoming neighborhood events. Jason Brooks and others from local Chase banks were there too, offering Hutchinson a $500 gift card from bank worker donations and a welcome basket that included a book of information about Bloomington and IU.

Chase spokeswoman Christine Holevas said the Feerwood Court home is the 325th to be given away through the partnership formed to help wounded veterans re-establish their lives. "We give the house to the nonprofit group, and they take it from there," she said.

Hutchinson looks forward to settling down in Indiana, just a six-hour drive from his and his wife's families in Iowa.

His house has new flooring and carpet, new appliances, a new roof, a new garage door and a new geothermal heating and cooling system. The interior got new paint, and both bathrooms were gutted and rebuilt.

The military support group even installed a tall pole in the front yard, from which an American flag flies.

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