U.S. Army Specialist Joshua Ashby of Justin came home from battles in Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a deviated nasal septum, memory loss, depression and mood swings.
He tried to make the best of it after his service, got married and had two children. But his medical troubles didn’t end: A son born in 2017 was diagnosed with multiple heart defects and has undergone three open-heart surgeries, with more operations anticipated.
On Thursday, Ashby, his wife, Karen, and their family got a bit of welcome Christmas cheer.
Officials with Operation Finally Home presented the family a mortgage-free house in north Fort Worth. The Operation FINALLY HOME board of directors decided Ashby and his family needed a break, one of its officials said.
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“I feel like a little kid on Christmas today,” Joshua said in front of the small crowd that had gathered to welcome him home. “We tried to get a house forever and nothing seemed to work out. But this is a gift from God. ... It’s just amazing. ... I can’t thank everybody enough. Best Christmas present ever.”
The 2,170 square-foot house is furnished and stocked with food. Employees from Two Men and a Truck moved the furniture from their old house in Justin at no cost, according to Ronnie Lyles, Operation Finally Home project manager.
The group’s mission is to provide homes and home modifications to U.S. military veterans and their widows. Operation Finally Home partners with corporate sponsors, builder associations, builders, remodelers, developers, individual contributors and volunteers to help these families by addressing one of their most pressing needs — a place to call home.
More than 2,200 veterans were homeless in Texas in 2017, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Ashby was awarded the Combat Action Badge, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with a Campaign Star, the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal for his service in Afghanistan, where he was deployed as a scout sniper in June 2011.
“I was in a firefight while I was over there nearly every day,” Ashby said.
He broke his nose after hitting a mounted weapon system during one nighttime mission but was unable at the time to get help. He still can’t breathe through it freely.
During another combat mission on Halloween that year, Ashby could only watch as his unit’s lead vehicle hit an estimated 200-pound IED, or improvised explosive device. Ashby and his comrades summoned a helicopter rescue for the injured while they continued the fight.
Operation Finally Home has partnered with Pulte’s veteran’s assistance program, Built to Honor, in 38 of the 153 homes that have been given away nationwide, Lyles said. FHL Bank and Texas Capital Bank assisted the Ashbys with a $7,500 grant and have helped with numerous projects in the North Texas region, Lyles said.
The home has a market value of about $300,000, according to a Pulte representative.
“Of the 153 veterans we have helped, I can’t think of a single one who was not deserving,” Lyles said.