Victorville Daily Press
November 9, 2013
Article Link: http://www.vvdailypress.com/articles/home-43597-victorville-welcome.html
Army Sgt. James Miller and his wife, Jacqlene, arrived with their four children at a three-bedroom home in Victorville on Saturday, not yet aware it was theirs.
The family was selected from “piles of applications” as the winner of the recently renovated house by a committee of veterans and community leaders for HomeStrong USA, a nonprofit community development organization.
“After everything we’ve gone through, this is a huge help,” James Miller said. “It’s a huge honor.”
James Miller, 27, is a Purple Heart recipient who was injured when an improvised explosive device damaged a vehicle he was riding in four years ago in Afghanistan. He is an active-duty soldier in the Army Community Based Warrior Transition Unit and is in the process of becoming medically retired, he said.
When he learned his family won the home Saturday morning, “I thought I was going to have a stroke or a heart attack,” he said.
A crowd of nearly 500 people gathered in the neighborhood to watch the giveaway take place.
A roar went up from the streets surrounding the house in the 13000 block of Spirit Place as more than 100 motorcyclists rode through. The riders came from Harley-Davidson of Victorville in large numbers, carrying a giant flag for each of the branches of the armed forces.
James Miller has served in the Army since he was 17 and joined with parental consent during the onset of the Iraq War in 2003, he said. He completed campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and survived an IED explosion during a mission where his unit disarmed a fake device, he said. In that same mission he saw two of his fellow soldiers die.
“It’s a huge stress relief to not have to pay rent,” James Miller said. “It’s amazing to free up a little bit (of money) to do more with the kids. We haven’t been on a vacation in a long time.”
In addition to his injuries, the family has had to grapple in the past two years with two major brain surgeries for Jacqlene Miller and their 4-year-old son, who were both diagnosed with a rare brain condition called Chiari malformation. The family travels to Loma Linda University Medical Center several times monthly for scheduled appointments and emergency visits.
Jacqlene Miller’s mother, Maria Zubiate, prompted the couple to apply for the opportunity to win the home.
“They struggle like every other family and the amount of money they spend going back and forth on gas to Loma Linda — this is going to make a world of difference in their lives,” Zubiate said.
Victorville Councilwoman Angela Valles was on hand along with representatives from the offices of State Sen. Steve Knight, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood and Assemblyman Mike Morrell to present James Miller with certificates honoring his military service.
Various checks also were presented to the family by a number of local businesses, including Ashley Home Furniture, Sunland Ford and Floor and Decor of Norco.
Harley-Davidson co-sponsored the event and store owner Cary Fischer said he was contacted to help rally the mass of motorcycle riders. K-FROG radio also attended and sponsored advertising for the contest.
“Welcome home,” said Elan Sherman to the young family during the giveaway ceremony. Sherman is senior vice president of real estate for Bank of America.
The giveaway was made possible through donations to HomeStrong by Bank of America, according to bank associate Wilfred Griego. MGR Real Estate and veteran-owned construction companies also partner with HomeStrong to renovate vacant properties to donate the homes to veterans and active-duty service members, or sell them at 20 percent less than market value.
“We’re giving back to our community,” Griego said. “That’s our mission of Bank of America, is giving back.”
It’s the third year in a row the company has sponsored a home giveaway during Veterans Day weekend in the High Desert, Griego said.