MASTIC, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There was an incredible surprise Tuesday on Long Island. The dream of home ownership was gifted to an injured combat veteran.
It was all the work of volunteers who recognized the great difficulty vets face when coming home from tours of duty.
CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff was there for the moment that changed a life.
It started out as an elaborate ruse. A seminar to educate realtors on the needs of veterans was real, but the other part, where the veterans, themselves, spoke, was a set-up.
Kevin Palacios didn’t know he was about to receive the gift of a lifetime.
When told the house was actually for him, Palacios said, “No, it’s not.”
Yeah, it really was.
A gift of a mortgage-free house.
There were sobs from the 30-year-old Marine who was twice injured in Afghanistan. Like so many returning veterans, with no credit or savings, home ownership seemed an impossible dream.
“They’re not making big military pay. They come home and a lot of them are injured. They need a place to live,” said Steve Probst of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp.
The Fairway Foundation spent five years raising $200,000 to make this dream come true.
Palacios was overwhelmed as he entered a completely renovated and furnished home.
“Brand new bathrooms, a brand new kitchen, blinds, paint, flooring, furniture, you name it. It’s literally an entire home remodeled,” said Dean Camastro of the Interior Design Society of Long Island.
“It give us Americans the opportunity to say thank you in person to a veteran,” added Wendy Lepkoff, a board member of the National Association of Remodeling Industry.
Thankful beyond words, Palacios, a single father who works in security logistics, was selected out of dozens of applicants, all Purple Heart veterans who didn’t expect another battle when coming home.
“I got out in 2012. Since then I have just been renting. It’s difficult. We live in New York,” Palacios said.
Of course, not every veteran can be gifted a free home, but the folks who made this one possible said they hope the gesture can be replicated.
“Of course we hear about suicide and homelessness. They won’t ask for help, but we can offer,” said Rosemarie Klueptel of the Fairway Foundation.
“We are making the difference in one person’s life. And if everybody makes a difference in one person’s life, imagine what the world would be like?” Probst added.
“I’m very grateful. I feel loved. I have a home,” Palacios said.
Even attorney closing costs were donated.
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation has built several of these homes for veterans around the country.