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Altus Veteran receives mortgage free home

(Source Howes family) (Source Howes family)

ALTUS, OK (KSWO) -A Purple Heart Army Veteran,who was born and raised in Altus, and trained at Fort Sill, recently received the surprise of a lifetime.

Heath Howes and his family were given a mortgage-free home by 'Operation Finally Home' at the St. Louis Cardinals game on September 10th when he also threw out the first pitch. Howes served for 3 years as a Field Artillery Specialist. He was deployed to Afghanistan where he was hit by a 200-pound improvised explosive device blast, and sustained extensive, serious injuries, which forced him into medical retirement in 2014.The Howes family has been planning on moving from their home in Blair in Jackson County to a suburb of St. Louis to be near his family sometime next year, so that's where their new home will be.

The Howes family had no idea they were receiving a free home. They received a call from someone with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team saying they wanted him and his family to come up to a game on September 10th because they were honoring the military, but turns out they had much more planned than he thought.

It was a moment that changed the Howes family's life. Heath says when his family signed them up back in January to get a custom-made, mortgage free home by Operation Finally Home, he never thought it would actually happen.

"I was in shock. It didn't seem real. It was like one just big dream," said Heath Howes, retired Veteran.

Howes has three boys with his wife Savannah. He says knowing the financial burden of making a house payment is off their shoulders, it's a feeling he can't even describe.

"Knowing that because of Operation Finally Home and Hibbs Homes that we will have security and knowing that we'll have a home that's ours. It's just so overwhelming. It's a dream come true," said Heath.

In Afghanistan, Heath suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a brain injury, spinal burst, fractured ribs, nerve damage to his leg, an ankle fracture, collapsed lung and more from the IED blast. He says he's lucky to be alive, but it's taken a long time to get to where he is now and overcome those obstacles.

"I've done a lot of rehab over the years and physical therapy, but I still have to go every now and then to get checkups," said Heath.

"It was definitely a hard point in our lives, but we made it through it and it's made us the people that we are today. We're extremely thankful. My husband came home broken, but he came home," said Savannah Howes, Heath's wife. 

Howes says thinking about the plans for the house and decorating makes her excited, but dreaming of the memories they'll make together in the new space makes her emotional.

"Thanksgiving, Christmas, having Sunday dinner with family and cooking in my kitchen," said Savannah Howes.

Heath says after everything he and his family has been through in the past few years, this means the world to him. He says he's ready to give his children and wife something they've never had before.

"Knowing that the house is going to be fit for our family and for our needs. Just knowing we have a house that's ours and that gives us a lot of security, so we're really excited about this blessing we've received," said Heath.

Since Howes is unable to work, he spends most of his time with his family and coaching his sons' T-ball and baseball teams. He says his goal is to be a good role model for them and teach them hard work, discipline and sportsmanship.

Howes and his family will move to the St. Louis area and move into their new home around the end of April 2017.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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