Retired Army Staff Sgt. Armando T. Ortiz Jr. grew up in Texas but he’s moving to Phenix City after he was presented the key Thursday afternoon to a renovated, mortgage-free home.
Ortiz, who was wounded during combat in Iraq and once served at Fort Benning, was presented the home during a 7 p.m. ceremony at the Alamo Plaza during the Fiesta San Antonio celebration.
“It’s awesome,” Ortiz said of the free house. “It goes to all of the soldiers who are still serving.”
The home was awarded through Project Rebuild, a program that helps to rebuild the lives of combat wounded veterans. Sponsors of the program include Walmart, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Wells Fargo and Military Warriors Support Foundation.
Money is generated from purchases of products at Dr Pepper Snapple Group and Walmart stores. The 100-percent mortgage free homes are presented to wounded veterans and surviving spouses of fallen soldiers.
Ortiz said he thought about soldiers such as Vietnam veterans who weren’t recognized when they returned home. “I try to find a way to give them thanks because they didn’t have what we have,” Ortiz said in a release.
Ortiz was born in Dalhart but grew up in Stinnet, Texas. He entered the Army soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. In addition to assignments at Fort Benning, he served at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, and Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Wash.
He was deployed four times and sustained injuries during combat in Iraq. His medals include the Bronze Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and other awards.
Ortiz is married to Miara and they have three children. He plans to move to Phenix City in about a month and hopes to become a high school football coach.
The foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps wounded veterans transition back into civilian life. Veterans fill out applications and the foundation determines which applicants meet the criteria to be awarded a mortgage-free home.
Necessary repairs and modifications are completed before Wells Fargo donates the home. The company makes property donations as part of its commitment to give back to the communities.
Retired Lt. Gen. Leroy Sisco founded the Military Warriors Support Foundation in 2007. He said the lives of Ortiz and his family will change with the free home. He will go from paying $1,300 a month to no mortgage.
Three years ago, the company pledged $35 million over three years to help veterans, service members and their families with housing, career transition and customized financial education.
Wells Fargo has earmarked $30 million toward home donations. The company has donated more than 120 properties to veterans and service members since 2013.