By Dillon Thomas
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4)– An Army veteran and double Purple Heart recipient was given keys to a brand new home on Friday, as a thank you for his service to his country and community.
Pastor Herbert Jackson, his wife and 3 children, were given a home in the Reunion neighborhood in Commerce City as part of the “Operation Homefront” program.
Operation Homefront works with veterans to get them in their own home, while also providing counseling and assistance with advisors and mentors. Participants are required to complete a two-year program before the home deed is officially handed over to the veteran and his/her family.
After being stationed around the world, including Germany, Jackson was deployed to Iraq. While serving in Iraq for more than eight months, Jackson was injured twice. He returned and was awarded two Purple Heart awards.
After becoming a minister, Jackson’s family applied for Operation Homefront. They were one of more than 400 Colorado families that applied.
Meritage Homes CEO Steve Hilton told CBS Denver’s Dillon Thomas the Jacksons were the easy pick, after reviewing their background, and noting their service to the Colorado community.
“This is not a prize like when you win the lottery,” Hilton said. “This is something that somebody has really earned, and given a lot for.”
CBS4 was there, when the Jacksons entered their home for the first time. Jackson and his eldest daughter were seen wiping away tears as they walked through the home for the first time.
Thanks to Meritage Homes, Operation Homefront and other businesses partners, the home was fully furnished for the family. Even the pantry was stocked with food and snacks.
“I never received an official welcome home because of injuries. And, today, after 12 years, finally a welcome home,” Jackson said. “Everything donors have done, has truly been a blessing to me and my family.”
Erica Jackson, Herbert’s wife, said this was the family’s first home they could own. With previous military deployments, they always lived in apartments or military housing.
“So many emotions, it was beautiful. Tears of joy, not sadness, of joy,” Erica Jackson said. “I could feel the love right when I walked in the room.”
Their son’s bedroom was decorated with superhero posters and figurines. It was also fully stocked with toys.
The Jackson daughters were given brand new bunk beds and decorations that fit their styles.
Jackson said with his injuries and experiences with the Veterans Affairs Administration, they were often left in difficult financial situations. He said his marriage was even tested as a result. However, with a new home, and a path toward financial freedom, he knew his family was going to grow even stronger.
“It is very difficult to bring up a family in that type of situation,” Herbert Jackson said. “If it had not been for God, I don’t know what we would have done. I’m thankful now, that we get to plant new roots here, and let them grow.”
“Thank you, all,” Erica Jackson said. “I was overwhelmed.”
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.