Nonprofit gifts local veteran with free home in Albuquerque
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – For the Francisco family, a new home not only represents a new beginning, but opens a door to a world of opportunities.
Retired Marine Sgt. Dustin Francisco and his family moved into their new mortgage-free home Wednesday, just in time for the holidays.
It’s all thanks to the nonprofit Building Homes for Heroes which partnered up with JPMorgan Chase, Advance Auto Parts, and Lowe’s.
“This never gets old. I’ve been doing this for six years now, and not one home ceremony is the same. And to this day, veterans can still make me cry,” said Building Homes for Heroes Construction and Events Manager Cody Brannon.
For Francisco, his wife, and his four kids, this new home is more than a new beginning.
“This home means everything with my family and my children. It gives a lot more opportunity, as well as more resources,” said Francisco.
Francisco served in Iraq and Afghanistan before he was discharged in 2013. The decorated veteran has received multiple honors including the Purple Heart, two Combat Action Ribbons, three Navy Unit Commendations and more.
While serving in Afghanistan in 2011, Francisco’s unit was ambushed while on a mission.
“One day I, I thought everything was OK, and grenades started coming into my compound. And me and a few other people were evacuated. And I was happy enough to where I could, my wounds weren’t that serious to where I wanted to get back to my, to my guys to keep leading the fight at that time,” said Francisco.
Since re-entering civilian life, Francisco has suffered from chronic PTSD, migraines, tinnitus, and depression. He’s able to get the help he needs through Veterans Affairs, but resources were few and far between when his family was living in Mariano Lake.
“Which is very, very hard sometimes to get the treatment that you need there. And it’s very limited as well with the mental treatment side,” Francisco said. “Just being here at the main VA, knowing that its roots there, that’s something I can rely on, something I can depend on. It’s always been there for me, but as well as other resources, like the VFW and other veterans that live here locally.”
Living in Albuquerque will not only bring Francisco closer to vital resources as he recovers, but he says it will also give his children the chance to go to better schools.
The cherry on top is receiving his brand-new home on the exact day he joined the Armed Forces.
“I remember going to the office and trying to go join the Marine Corps which is Dec. 6, I left for boot camp Dec. 6, 2004,” said Francisco.
For Francisco, the reality of a mortgage-free home hasn’t quite set in.
“At the end of the conversations she told me that I got selected, and I didn’t believe her, and I didn’t believe her one bit. It really touched my heart. It really did, but I still can’t believe it still, you know, I’m still standing here. We’re in, I can’t believe it,” Francisco said.
He says it’ll probably take a couple of years for it to settle, but some family members are already making themselves at home. Francisco’s youngest child fell asleep in the middle of the living room.
This is the 356th house Building Homes for Heroes has gifted and the first one to be given in New Mexico.
The organization says it has another home set up in Rio Rancho that they’re hoping to give to a veteran soon.