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Calif. veteran welcomed to new 'Home for Hero'

By RENE RAY DE LA CRUZ | Daily Press, Victorville, Calif. | Published: October 13, 2018

HESPERIA (Tribune News Service) — A giant American flag swayed in the breeze over one neighborhood as a Purple Heart recipient and his family received a new mortgage-free home.

Hesperia Mayor Bill Holland and Mayor Pro Tem Rebekah Swanson joined dozens of community leaders on Wednesday as the nonprofit Building Homes for Heroes and Chase bank surprised former Army Sgt. 1st Class Mitchell Melott and his family with the home.

Building Homes for Heroes, in partnership with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., gifted the two-story dwelling to the Melott family as officials of the City of Hesperia, local contractors and members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's and Fire departments joined in the celebration that began on the driveway and spilled onto the cul-de-sac.

Melott's wife, Brandi, and their children, Malori and Samuel, were surprised when they were driven to their home, which was surrounded by an army of well-wishers and an aerial ladder fire truck that suspended a large American flag over their home.

Special Assistant Don Holland with First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood's office said those gathered "really don't know what soldiers" go through when they are deployed overseas, "particularly in combat zones."

"Our attempts to say thank you are so genuine and heartfelt," Holland said. "It's so wonderful that we have so many companies, corporations and individuals who supported Homes for Heroes. So this is a small way for the community and the country to say thank you for your sacrifice and service to this country."

"Thank you for coming out," said Melott, who described himself as a low-key guy before introducing his immediate family and family that was seated in the audience. "Julius is my other son who is in the Army in Korea."

During the event, Melott shared his story of being severely wounded while deployed in Iraq nearly 10 years ago. While en route to a patrol base, Melott's armored vehicle stopped in Mosul to check the location of a previous IED blast.

When Melott dismounted, an IED exploded, resulting in multiple traumatic injuries, including collarbone fractures, a severe facial laceration and his left leg being crushed under the weight of his vehicle.

After several failed attempts to salvage his leg, Melott would later undergo two surgeries that resulted in an above-the-knee amputation.

Melott was later awarded the Bronze Star Medal, a Purple Heart and many other honors and accolades. He served for over 17 years before honorably retiring.

During the ceremony, Melott received the keys to his new home, along with a special ceremonial door knocker from the City of Hesperia.

"This is truly remarkable, your service is not unknown and not unrecognized and most certainly appreciated," Holland told Melott. "Rather than a plaque or certificate, what we wanted was for your home to have a little personalization so we have an engraved door knocker for you to let everyone know you're now in Hesperia."

Wearing leather vests arrayed with military-themed patches, veterans Luis Ranero, 39, and Robert Tolliver, 69, with the Combat Vets Association embraced Melott before entering his house for the first time.

Built in 2006, the family's new 3,500-square-foot home includes new landscaping, appliances, new flooring, a backyard rock fountain and an indoor elevator.

Building Homes for Heroes is a national nonprofit that builds and modifies homes to gift mortgage-free to wounded veterans and their families. Since 2006, the nonprofit has given homes and new opportunities to more than 150 families across the nation.

Since 2011, Chase has donated over 980 mortgage-free homes to veterans and their families through the Home Awards Program partnership with nonprofits such as Building Homes for Heroes.

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(c)2018 Daily Press, Victorville, Calif.
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