Veterans get new homes in Gunter

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GUNTER, TX-Three veterans now have a new place to call home here in Texoma after "Operation: Finally Home" presented them the keys Saturday afternoon. Victoria Maranan has the story.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Robert Aiken III is one of the three military veterans who received the keys to their new homes in Gunter Saturday afternoon as part of "Operation: Finally Home."

"It's a bit overwhelming really."

Aiken said he still can't wrap his head around owning a new home, where he and his family will live in.

"I think getting up and watching the girls' faces and them just doing what they're doing at home and realizing this is our home, there's really no comparison. It's a very peaceful, loving moment," he said.

Aiken served in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years. He was wounded in Iraq, leading him to his retirement in 2005.

"We feel that these young men and women have earned these homes on the battlefield, they've given it their all. You know, arms, legs, blood, sweat and tears defending us and defending our way of life. Regardless if you're for the war or against the war, these are also the men and women who are humanitarians and peacekeepers around the world."

"Operation: Finally Home" executive director, Daniel Vargas, said each home runs $300,000 to $350,000. But, because area builders donated their service and supplies for each home, they are mortgage-free.
He hopes the new homes will help veterans adjust to their new lives.

"We actually work with the department of defense and veterans administration case workers to find veterans that are in the area, or coming back to the area they are from. So they'll have the support system from family and friends so we can move them in a home and integrate them back into civilian life," Vargas said.

"It was kind of a surprise, but it's one that worked out well for us. All of our family and friends are in this area," said Aiken.

Aiken also received two $5,000 scholarships from the "Folds of Honor Foundation" to help his two daughters attend college.

"You know, we didn't expect that and it's such a pleasant surprise. And it just goes to show how awesome this organization is, because a house is just a house. A home needs a family," he said.

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