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‘A place to call home’

Michaela Thompson, left, stands in front of her new home as her husband, retired U.S. Army Spc. Jason Thompson, center, hugs Brian Butler, president of Vistra Communications, which staged the event. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Michaela Thompson, left, stands in front of her new home as her husband, retired U.S. Army Spc. Jason Thompson, center, hugs Brian Butler, president of Vistra Communications, which staged the event. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

RIO RANCHO – Retired Army Spc. Jason Thompson fought back tears as he and his family were given a tour of their new home Wednesday on Agua Dulce Drive.

The Afghanistan War veteran said he’s usually not an emotional person.

bright spotBut it was hard for him to fight the emotions in describing his feelings about receiving the house as a gift for his service through a partnership of U.S. Bank and Freedom Alliance, a charity providing support to service members and military families.

He was presented with a key to the home in a ceremony that included U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull and officials from U.S. Bank and Freedom Alliance.

“It’s such an amazing gift,” Thompson said. “There’s no words I can say about how I feel.”

Thompson, his wife, Michaela, and sons Joshua, 3, Caleb, 15, and Jared, 16, were living on base at Fort Campbell, Ky., when they found out about the home offer. Jason Thompson medically retired in June because of injuries he suffered in Afghanistan, and the family was scheduled to move out on March 15.

“We really didn’t have a place to go after March 15,” Thompson said.

Fort Campbell Wounded Warrior Advocate Nadlyn Snape said she received an email looking for a candidate for the home in New Mexico. She felt Thompson was ideal.

“He was awarded the Purple Heart and a Combat Infantry Badge,” Snape said.

“Once she told us about it, everything fell right into place,” Thompson said. “I’m excited; I like change. Being in the military, you move around a lot. Having a place to call home and not having to move in another three years, that’s a big plus for my family.”

A motorcycle group of the Punishers, LEMC, escorts the car of retired Army Specialist Jason Thompson and family to their new home in Rio Rancho on Wednesday.

A motorcycle group of the Punishers, LEMC, escorts the car of retired Army Specialist Jason Thompson and family to their new home in Rio Rancho on Wednesday.

The Thompson family visited New Mexico in February to check out the area. They were also able to look at the house, which was being remodeled at the time.

“If you would have asked me a few years ago if I was going to move to New Mexico, I would have laughed, not knowing when I came here how gorgeous it is here,” said Thompson, an Ohio native.

Michaela Thompson said she Googled hiking trails when she found out about the possibility of the move to New Mexico. She was pleased that the house was spacious enough for their sons.

She and her husband were also impressed with what they heard about Rio Rancho schools.

Hull, the Thompsons’ backyard neighbor, said having a mortgage-free home will allow Jason “to focus on recovery and focus on building a family.”

Thompson said he appreciated having a home where he wouldn’t “have to worry about my family if something were to happen to me.”

“I still have some health issues I have to get through,” Thompson said.

During his service in Afghanistan, he experienced five mortar and rocket fire blasts, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury. He enlisted in the Army in 2009. He was stationed in Germany in 2010 before deploying to Afghanistan.

“The United States owes a great debt to returning veterans, including Army Spc. Jason Thompson. I am incredibly proud to welcome him to the Rio Rancho community, and thank him and his family for their service and sacrifice for our country,” Luján said.

He also said he thought the family would be an asset to the community.

Luján said he encouraged them to take advantage of the outdoor opportunities that come with living in New Mexico.

The home is the 18th donated by U.S. Bank through its Housing Opportunities after Military Engagement, or H.O.M.E., program, in conjunction with Freedom Alliance.

It is the second home donated in New Mexico, Luján said. The other is in Las Cruces.

We welcome suggestions for the daily Bright Spot. Send to newsroom@abqjournal.com.

 

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