Sometimes it’s OK for soldiers to cry, especially when they are tears of joy.
And for Charlotte Ferris, these days the tears are flowing as freely as the freedom for which she fought for as a soldier in Kuwait and Iraq.
Recently, Charlotte and her four children were the surprise recipients of a free home donated to them by a variety of folks who joined forces through Operation Finally Home.
In the next few months, Charlotte along with 13-year-old daughter Ryla, 12-year-old daughter Allysssa, and 8-year-old twins Isaiah (son) and Kayla (daughter) will be moving into their new 2,366-square foot house in Weatherford that has five bedrooms, three baths and a two-car garage.
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“I can have my own space, and my mom won’t have to give my stuffed animals away,” Kayla said.
In fact, Kayla can add to her collection. As Allyssa said, they are a close family, but they will enjoy all the extra space soon.
They’ve been living with Charlotte’s mother in White Settlement, with the two older sisters sharing a room, and the twins living in the same room as their mother since 2010.
“This is going to make life a whole lot easier,” Charlotte said. “I just can’t say how special this is. I just can’t believe it.”
Charlotte’s struggles began during her first tour of duty (2002-05) while on a mission in Mosul, Iraq. An improvised explosive device (IED) detonated beneath the armored 5-ton truck she was driving, rupturing her eardrum.
Charlotte searched for her crew, who all survived, but she also broke an ankle that required surgery.
Charlotte was recalled to active duty in 2009, but was deemed unable to serve for medical reasons.
Due to the IED explosion, she suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a traumatic brain injury, post-concussion headaches, and more, including a permanently damaged left ankle.
She is unable to work because of these. And while she has numerous awards, including a Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, and National Defense Service Medal, they don’t pay the bills and they don’t put a roof over her and the children.
“I was thinking, ‘No way,’” Charlotte said of being surprised as she and Finally Home Project Manager Ronnie Lyles drove to the display home. “You guys sure know how to surprise someone.”
Charlotte is originally from Lake Worth, but she is looking forward to living in Weatherford and met some of her new neighbors at the groundbreaking.
“I’ve come here every once in a while. It’s a nice city. I saw the high school, and my oldest will be going there next year,” Charlotte said. “This is really nice. We’re in a really good area.”
Then, she turned upon hearing some laughs to see her twins playing on a mound of dirt at the home site, and said with a laugh, “Somebody’s going to be dirty later. But that’s OK. They can enjoy this all they want.”
The house is being donated by McBee Homes. The lot on which the home will sit was donated by Heritage Real Estate.
The Finally Home Project began in Texas, but has spread to 30 states and has completed 151 homes.
“That’s 151 husbands, wives, widows we’ve helped,” Lyles said. “We’re looking for people who wanting a hand up, not a handout. And we’re here today to honor a real American hero.
“This is one (project) where we have the moving parts in place. They’ve been ready to go, so it won’t be long before they start actual construction, and if everything goes well they should be able to move in within about five or six months.”
Marina Sears, the owner of Heritage Real Estate, provided the lot for Ferris and her family. Sears said she remembers what it was like being a single mother with young children.
“I’ve been a widow for 32 years. I talked with my family, and we thought a single mom with four kids, a veteran, why not just give her the lot?” Sears said. “She’s given us so much with her service.
“When I found out it was a single mom, I’ve been there. My kids were 7, 5, 1 and I was pregnant when my husband died. I look at my own life as a miracle, and as a family we were just moved to give to her.”
Lyles said in the coming weeks, the community will be invited to post notes of love on the studs that will later be covered by walls in the home.
“They can put special messages, Bible verses, all sorts of nice things on there,” he said. “And it’s there forever. I went to one in Irving yesterday. It was cool.”
Meanwhile, the children continue to enjoy the dirt and eagerly await having their town rooms.
“I’ve just never had my own room, and now I do. It’s going to be so great,” Isaiah said.
And, of course, that extra space isn’t just in their own rooms, Allyssa noted.
“It’s got more than two bathrooms, so we won’t have to wait as long. And it will be fantastic having my own room,” Allyssa said.
“I don’t really know if I can put it into words,” Ryla said. “Watching my mom, it was so nice. I’m really grateful.”