Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Busby had long looked forward to a career in the military.
He had seen the benefits of serving his country firsthand; it was part of a long family tradition that went back to his great-grandfather.
“I went into the Army to make myself a man and provide a good financial future for my family,” Busby said.
His plans changed in 2007 when Busby fell victim to an improvised explosive device during his second tour in Iraq. Busby, 34, went through rehabilitation, but ultimately was unable to overcome a string of injuries that included severe concussions that left him with short-term memory loss. He limps on his left leg because there’s no cartilage left in the knee.
“I have back problems, neck problems, migraines that are so bad I’ll vomit and forget who I am for a while,” he said. “Once I’m in that state the only comfortable position is the fetal position, and I’ll be that way for four to 18 hours.”
Busby was medically discharged in 2010. He left the Army with a Purple Heart, two Army Commendation Medals, enough service ribbons to cover half his chest and a 60-percent disability check that wasn’t quite dough to let him and his wife give their two kids that good life.
“This is the fourth event like this that I’ve done, donations of foreclosed homes to disabled veterans, and I get choked up every time,” said Joe Stroop, a Wells Fargo spokesman who handed Busby the front door key. “It’s so powerful to watch them realize that ‘this is my home.’ ”
Awe washed over Busby and his wife, Tiffany, 30, and daughters, Aspen, 6, and Halle, 2, as they walked into their new home with their 2-year-old boxer, Simon.
“I’m not used to people doing nice things for me,” Busby almost whispered, holding back tears.
Tiffany Busby said that’s a typical feeling for her husband. He believes that he didn’t do anything special in the Army, and he didn’t deserve something like the three-bedroom, two-bath house.
If he doesn’t, she asked, who does?
Busby’s first Iraq tour sent him to Fallujah, where his unit was assigned to help Marines clean up the town.
The injury that eventually put him out of work came during his second deployment while his team of four were in a Humvee that was part of a convoy out of Camp Falcon Forward Operating Base in southern Baghdad.
An IED disintegrated the back end of the Humvee, peppered Busby with shrapnel and left him with his second major concussion in as many years. All he knows about the incident is what his best friend, Grant Hubbart, and others told him later. All four survived, but he was the last one to get out of the Humvee.
“Somehow I got the door open and started walking toward the front, then I stopped all of a sudden,” Busby said. “I walked back to the Humvee and got my rifle.”
Busby’s then marched through small-arms fire to another Humvee and ordered the man sitting in the driver’s seat to get into the back.
“Then I got into the driver’s seat and passed out,” Busby said.
After his medical discharge and return to Oregon with his family, Busby tried to make a go of life. However, something tugged at him. Hubbart, himself a Purple Heart veteran, and other Texans in the company made Busby an honorary Texan and gave him a Longhorns ball cap that became his lucky charm.
“After that, I felt like I was always meant to live in Texas,” Busby said.
So when the Busbys were offered a home in Texas, they packed a rented bobtail truck and a couple of SUVs and drove about 1,900 miles from Chiloquin, Ore., to North Richland Hills, where the 35-year-old house in a relatively young and prosperous neighborhood awaited them.