Retired Army veteran given mortgage-free home in Pennsylvania
By MICHAEL DIVITTORIO | The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | Published: May 17, 2017
PITTSBURGH (Tribune News Service) — Retired Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Jones said he grew comfortable jumping out of aircraft and searching for improvised explosive devices during his time in the service, but found it difficult to express his excitement about his new civilian life in Penn Hills.
“I'm having a hard time coming up with the adequate words to express how much this means to me,” he said. “Everybody seems really nice. This is a beautiful neighborhood. I'm literally right down the street from where I grew up.”
The Military Warriors Support Foundation and Citizens Bank teamed up to surprise the veteran on Saturday with a mortgage-free home along Bryant Drive.
The two-story yellow brick home has hardwood floors, new appliances and a “man cave.” In the backyard are two large trees and a shed. Brad Conner, the bank's vice chairman of consumer banking, presented Jones with keys to the renovated foreclosure property.
“I'm happy that we're working together to award this home to a true military hero,” Conner said. Bank partner Giant Eagle Inc. took part in the project.
Jones, 42, was moved in by North Versailles-based Maroadi Transfer & Storage.
He also received about $11,000 in gift cards, a custom jersey and autographed puck from the Pittsburgh Penguins, a fully stocked fridge and pantry from Giant Eagle, a patio set through Adams Manufacturing, a grill and propane from Blue Rhino and free car washes for a year from GetGo.
Neighbors Dottie Brown and her brother, Dan Brown, joined in the festivities.
“They really did an awesome job in there. It's beautiful,” Dan Brown said.
Dottie Brown said she and her brother have lived on Bryant Drive for two years.
“It's a good neighborhood. He'll be comfortable here, I'm sure,” Dottie Brown said, referring to Jones.
Jones grew up in Monroeville and graduated from Gateway High School in 1993.
He joined the Army in January 2001.
His first deployment was from November 2001 through March 2002 in Kosovo. He did a tour in Iraq from September 2003 through March 2004.
Jones served in Afghanistan from March 2006 through March 2007, and again from February 2009 through February 2010.
He sustained what the foundation described as a mild traumatic brain injury from explosives in his second tour in Afghanistan.
An IED exploded under his seat in a truck on Jan. 5, 2010, according to an account from the foundation. An enemy combatant drove a dump truck full of explosives into a compound where Jones was stationed just two days later. Some soldiers were killed during the attack on the compound.
“I'm no hero. I've served with some,” Jones said.
Jones was awarded numerous medals for his service including a Combat Action Badge, Gold Conduct Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and two Army Commendation medals.
He retired from the Army in September 2012 for medical reasons.
The foundation, which selected Jones and Penn Hills, has donated homes through various banks across the nation since 2010. Jones was recipient No. 762.
“Our mission is working with combat-wounded veterans,” said Kathy Feeney, the foundation's executive adviser for housing initiatives. Applicants go through interviews and a three-year financial and family mentoring program. This is the third year that Citizens has partnered with the foundation to provide a home to a military family, and the first house given in the Pittsburgh area.
Citizens also will donate as much as $25,000 to the foundation via the bank's Fund Your Dreams giveaway. Veterans who want to learn more about foundation programs can visit militarywarriors.org.
Michael DiVittorio: firstname.lastname@example.org