A white SUV escorted by Patriot Guard riders slowly maneuvered Thursday morning through a new section of homes at Santa Rita Ranch.
The cheers that rang out were for Aaron Cabrera and his son Jac. This special homecoming offered more than hugs and handshakes and included a new home in Liberty Hill.
"It’s been a long time coming, to get it done. But just the fact that it came together for my son and I, it’s absolutely amazing. Overwhelming," said Aaron Cabrera.
Cabrera, a decorated Army sergeant, was wounded in Iraq. He is getting this home free through Operation Finally Home, a veterans support program supported by sponsors like Texas grocery chain HEB.
"Today is really about giving back to those, taking care of Texans, and today we got to take care of a veteran who did so much for his country, and today we get to repay him with a mortgage free fully furnished home and it's just truly incredible," said Johnny Mojica with HEB.
The celebration included a look back at the construction which began a year ago and a video showing special messages written on interior boards left by neighbors, subcontractors and employees with Highland Homes.
"There is one thing to say loved by your community, this is really loved by your community," said Cabrera.
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There was a double ribbon cutting followed by a tour inside the house. It’s an open floor plan with a lot of special touches like a room designed especially for Cabrera. The bedroom for his son also came with extra decorations.
"I just like all the color, and all the drum stuff," said Jac Cabrera.
The Cabrera home is not a "one and done" holiday gift. Several homes like it have been built and more are coming.
Dan Wallrath with Operation Finally Home told those at the celebration these homecomings never get old for him. Wallrath’s group was the lead organization for the Cabrera home project and has built, or renovated more than 400 homes across the nation for veterans and first responders since 2005.
"The American dream is homeownership, and so many of our veterans they've given so much for our country, they'll never be able to have one, so we are just trying to make their lives a little better," said Wallrath.
The Cabrera home is the 39th that HEB has been involved in. The grocery chain has four more homes in progress and should have close to 50 built by next summer.
Cabrera, in a way, is already paying his gift forward. He has created two nonprofit support groups. On Thursday, as the celebration was winding down, he offered a messages to veterans like him.
"Be part of the community, try to help somebody, because what is going to help you out of those dark moments is seeking others out, and reaching a hand out, and helping other veterans as well," said Cabrera.