Just a little over five months ago, U.S. Marine Corporal Ray Lopez and his family were surprised with the news that they would receive a custom-built, mortgage-free home.
On Thursday, Ray and his two daughters Madyson and Sarah, were given the keys to their newly completed house as a dedication ceremony was held outside their home.
Operation Finally Home, along with Silver Leaf Homes, partnered up to build the house and host the dedication ceremony.
“It feels amazing,” Lopez said of the new residence which is located on 2101 Congress Street. “It’s a great feeling. It’s a great day and it’s just a little surreal. It feels unbelievable.”
Operation Finally Home is based in New Braunfels and is a nonpartisan/nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization with a mission to provide homes and home modifications to military heroes, first responders and widows of the fallen.
Representatives of Operation Finally Home and Silver Leaf Homes were on hand Thursday to welcome the Lopez family to their new home.
The Lopez family was escorted to their new home by the Odessa Police Department and the Odessa Fire Department along with the Patriot Guard Riders.
Operation Finally Home was established in 2005 and has done more than 380 projects since then.
“Our founder was a custom home builder but he never imagined where we would be 16 years later,” Operation Finally Home Project Manager Ronnie Lyles said during the ceremony. “We started with a mission to provide custom, mortgage-free homes to America’s wounded, ill and injured, military veterans as well as first responders and widows of the fallen in honor to thank them for their courage and sacrifice. What a better way than to put a roof over someone’s head and tell them how much we as a country appreciate the sacrifices they made.”
Lopez, who is originally from Kermit, was raised by his grandparents in Odessa.
He went to school at Permian and played football before graduating in 2002.
Lopez joined the military following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
He went on to serve four-plus years in the U.S. Marine Corps from August 2002 to November 2006.
During his deployment to Afghanistan, in November 2004, Lopez’s unit took on enemy fire while on foot patrol.
Upon entering a house in the area, Lopez was hit in the chest with gunfire from a bedroom and could not return fire due to pain from the injury and a collapsed lung.
He was eventually medically evacuated from the area.
After receiving treatment in the United States, he returned for a third tour of duty in 2006.
Lopez was honorably discharged in November 2006 after receiving a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in combat.
However, he still deals with chronic pain from his chest wound as well as traumatic brain injury (TBI), vertigo, Grand Mal seizures, migraines and tinnitus from a head injury. As a result of his experiences, Lopez deals with PTSD symptoms every day.
“I’m not going to lie, my faith was diminished for so long and it was little by little that I was able to regain it,” Lopez said during the dedication ceremony. “All of you coming together and doing this for my family and I, I really appreciate it. We’re super blessed and through God, I’ve been more blessed than you’ll ever know every day. I just thank God and look to him. One thing I keep telling my kids is faith over fear. … It’s all that I have to live by. It’s all that I can do to keep getting up in the morning and to not give up. I don’t have to shoot for another day, I can shoot for thanking God for the day that was given. Each one of them is a blessing and it’s even more of a blessing to be in this new home. I greatly appreciate it.”
The ceremony concluded with a ribbon-cutting.
After that, the Lopez family walked in to see their new home, which features three bedrooms and two bathrooms and is just over 2,000 square feet.
“It’s awesome,” Silver Leaf Homes co-owner Drew Wegman said. “We’ve been working on this for awhile but to see (the Lopez family) walk through the front door for the first time and to see the smiles on the kids’ faces, it just makes it even more special.”
(c) 2022 the Odessa American
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