When U.S. Army Major Eric K. King (Ret) carefully stepped out of the vehicle on a typically hot Texas day in July, no one could imagine the range of thoughts and emotions going through his mind at that moment. There were TV cameras and a crowd of people he had never met all gathered on a vacant residential lot in Irving. He shook the hand of Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer. He shook hands with Texas State Senator Kelly Hancock. And as he made his way toward the tent set up with chairs and a podium, we know of at least one thought going through his mind that he verbalized later. “I wasn’t prepared for this.”
Maj. Eric King was standing on the spot where his home would soon be, a mortgage-free home made possible by Operation FINALLY HOME and community partners including the Dallas Builders’ Association, Winston Homes, the City of Irving and NEC Corporation of America, among others.
Major King served in the U.S. Army for 16 years. His deployments included three combat tours – two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. The first combat deployment was to Iraq in 2004 where he served as an Infantry Rifle Platoon Leader. He knew his life had changed after he survived several Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks, ambushes and gunfights while watching other soldiers lose their life or be critically wounded. King received many commendations, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Two Bronze Star Medals and many more.
Like many combat soldiers, King suffers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The effects of his brain trauma and other serious injuries are constant reminders of his combat experiences. Medical treatment and physical therapy allow him to walk with the assistance of a cane, but he depends on a primary caregiver, a sister he lives with, and his parents to help him and his three children. However, his many challenges have not prevented him from wanting a key part of the American dream: home ownership.
Maj. King contacted Operation FINALLY HOME, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to providing custom-built, mortgage-free homes for wounded, ill or injured veterans, surviving spouses and their families. To date, Operation FINALLY HOME has over 250 home projects completed or in planning in 33 states. The charity works with various builder’s associations and member builders, corporate sponsors, and generous donors to fund each project.
NEC Gets Involved
NEC Corporation of America supports various charities and organizations through its philanthropic nonprofit organization, NEC Foundation of America. The Foundation’s mission is to contribute to the creation of social value and help advance human potential through technology and innovative giving programs with a focus on:
• Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education
• Health and Human Services
• Environmental Stewardship
• Community Wellbeing
Having employees that served or those with family members in the military, NEC has always encouraged employees to get involved and support various veterans’ organizations either with financial gifts or with volunteer time. Additionally, NEC’s work with various law enforcement and governmental agencies allowed company employees to work with many former service men and women. Our employees and customers with military connections inspired the executive board of the NEC Foundation to search for an organization to work with where Foundation dollars would have a positive and lasting impact.
“When the NEC Foundation learned of the vision and work of Operation FINALLY HOME, it honestly felt like the perfect match,“ said Jeremy Strauss, NEC Foundation Vice President. “By providing the gap funding to help turn this plan into a reality, NEC was able to support a deserving veteran and his family – in a meaningful and lasting way – by providing them a safe home – right in our corporate HQ backyard.”
There was a lot of behind the scenes work that went into making the surprise happen, with Maj. King thinking they were only meeting for coffee in a preliminary meeting to determine if he was eligible. You can see how it all came together by watching the City of Irving’s video.
NEC employees will have additional opportunities to support this veteran throughout the building process:
• Notes of Love – Once the house reaches frame stage, employees and other supportive members of the community will be invited to write positive notes posted on the frame before the builder installs drywall. These can be notes of gratitude for his service, spiritual blessings, or other positive sentiments. We want to “wrap the house with love” as the building process continues.
• Key Ceremony – Employees can be there when the keys to the veteran’s new home are handed over and help he and his family celebrate their new home and new life.
• Other volunteer and support opportunities – Employees will have the opportunity to volunteer as the family begins to settle into their new home as there are always unexpected needs and expenses during a move.
Additional media coverage of the event:
• Dallas Fox 4 – Disabled North Texas veteran surprised with mortgage-free home
• Dallas CW33 – Army veteran gifted new Irving home through national organization
• Rambler Newspapers – U.S. Army Major Eric King and his family received a big surprise