Wounded hero receives free home

Army sergeant seriously injured in Iraq gets a home in Northeast Richland

January 10, 2012 

A military hero’s dream of owning a home became a reality this week following a generous gift from two insurance-related companies.

Army 1st Sgt. Peter Lara, who was seriously wounded in Iraq in 2005 and recently retired from Fort Jackson, received the keys to his new home Monday in Northeast Richland.

The gift was made possible by PGBA and InStil Health Insurance Co., both part of the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina group of companies. They presented $20,000 to the Military Warriors Support Foundation, which awards houses to combat-wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The donation covered the cost of transferring ownership of a mortgage-free home to Lara.

“It is a dream come true to receive something as precious as this,” Lara said. “It is a tremendous help to me financially as I go through a medical retirement. I’m a lucky person. The military was great to me after I was shot, and then to have something like this house happen, I am truly blessed.”

Lara has undergone more than 40 surgeries since suffering three gunshot wounds during a firefight in Nov. 19, 2005, in Mosul, Iraq. Lara joined the Army in 1992 and was named 2009 Soldier of the Year by the Army Times for his service in Mosul and for his leadership as a basic training company first sergeant at Fort Jackson after he was wounded.

The Military Warriors Support Foundation works with banks and mortgage companies that donate homes to retiring veterans wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. The foundation has awarded homes to more than 60 families in the past year and spends $20,000 on average to transfer each home to a wounded veteran.

“We are very thankful to PGBA and InStil Health Insurance and the hearts they have to help the wounded heroes,” said Ken Eakes, executive director of the foundation.

Of bricks and mortar

Midlands families who struggle to get housing will be getting a helping hands, thanks to a $10,000 grant from Wells Fargo.

The company recently announced the grant that will help fund the Midlands Housing Trust Fund. The partnership of public and private funding seeks to preserve and increase the number of quality, affordable housing opportunities in the area.

“We want to promote the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life for everyone in our communities,” said Holt Chetwood, Wells Fargo Midlands Market president. “If they prosper, so do we.”

The fund will serve people who have trouble securing housing, including those who work at low-and moderate-age jobs and earning up to 80 percent of the area’s median income.

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