U.S. Marine Corporal Ray Lopez initially thought he was just going to participate in a simple interview process with Operation Finally Home and Silver Leaf Homes.
Instead, longtime Odessan, who toured Iraq several times in the early 2000s, was surprised with the news that he and his two daughters Madyson and Sarah would be given a new mortgage-free home with a special foundation stone laying ceremony on Monday morning at 2101 Congress Street in Odessa .
When Lopez finally realized what was going on, words were denied him.
“I think that was my biggest thing,” said Lopez. “I was like ‘Oh God’. I almost closed, mentally, because I had no words when I got out. The first thing I thought was, ‘I’m going to stumble on this platform.’ … no, when I saw it, I just thought of barbecues in the back yard and those two that were walking around. I was so excited. In my head I thought don’t smile too much. I just couldn’t believe it. It was pure shock and a sense of well being. It was a really good feeling of grace and acceptance. “
The project is being realized through a partnership between Operation Final Home and Silver Leaf Homes.
Operation Final Home, based in New Braunfels, is a 501 (c) (3) non-partisan / not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing America’s military heroes, first responders, and widows of the Fallen Homes and conversions.
Founded in 2005, it has completed or is in the planning phase of more than 300 residential projects in more than 30 states.
“(Ray) thought he was interviewing a builder, but it was so nice to see the look on his and his daughters’ faces as they saw what was happening,” said Ronnie Lyles, Project Leader, Operation Final Home. “He doesn’t have to worry about a mortgage anymore. It is an honor to give something back to someone who has given so much. “
After all, Home works with corporate sponsors, building associations, builders, remodelers, developers, individual contributors, and volunteers to help these heroes and their families by addressing one of their most pressing needs, which is a home.
This is the first project that Operation Final Home has partnered with Silver Leaf Homes.
“I just want to thank the city of Odessa and for Silver Leaf Homes,” Lyles said. “Silver Leaf Homes was committed to this project and hopefully it won’t be our last. We are grateful to the city of Odessa and the citizens who welcomed the Lopez family and will continue to do so. “
Silver Leaf Homes has been around for 30 years and has grown to become a leading home builder in the Greater Fort Worth area and Permian Basin.
Silver Leaf Homes co-owner Drew Wegman says it’s fantastic to partner with Operation At Last Home.
“We build houses to make a living, but being part of a house that honors a veteran and honors (Ray) with a home without a mortgage is a blessing to us,” Wegman said.
Originally from Kermit, Lopez moved to Odessa when he was in sixth grade, attending Cameron Elementary and Bonham and Nimitz Junior High before attending Permian High School.
Lopez played defensive end at Permian and graduated from the class in 2002.
He is the second oldest of five children who grew up with his grandparents in Odessa.
Lopez joined the military after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“It was the actual day, 9-11,” said Lopez. “I went to my English class. I was too late. I saw what happened on TV and I gave up on everything. I quit football and focused on work and joined the Marine Corps. I originally wanted to be with the military police, but I decided I didn’t want to go into law enforcement. I wanted to go there and do the same damage to them that they did to us. “
From August 2002 to November 2006 he served over four years in the US Marine Corps, with his three tours taking place in Iraq.
In 2004, Lopez’s unit picked up enemy fire while on foot patrol.
Entering a house, Lopez was shot in the chest with gunshots from a bedroom and was unable to return fire due to the pain of injury and a collapsed lung.
He was eventually medically evacuated from the area.
After receiving treatment in the USA, he returned in 2006 for a third period of service.
He was honorably discharged in November 2006 after receiving a Purple Heart for battle injuries.
Lopez deals with chronic pain from his chest wound, as well as traumatic brain injury, dizziness, grand mal seizures, migraines, and tinnitus from a head injury.
Based on his experience, he also struggles with the symptoms of PTSD every day.
Despite his injuries, Lopez has always been grateful to the Odessa community for always being there for him.
“After I was shot in the chest in 2004, the community was there,” said Lopez. “It was almost a reminder that I was never alone. The community is always there and there is a feeling that this is home and that is what it is all about. West Texas has always been a strong community for people who serve this country. It is amazing how everyone here loves people and has great admiration for the people who serve. “
He was also presented with a flag of the Freedom Riders, who accompanied him and his daughters to the home town for the groundbreaking on Monday.
“They presented me with a flag that was signed by the people in the West Texas Chapter and they just said thank you for your service and gave me a token of gratitude,” said Lopez.
The new home will have three bedrooms, two bathrooms and be just over 2,000 square feet, Wegman said.
Wegman says it should take around five to six months to build.
Lopez is just happy not to have to worry about a mortgage soon.
“Oh man, it feels great to think about it right now,” Wegman said. “Right now my mortgage isn’t a big deal, but having one that I don’t have to pay for is a big deal. It would be nice to be back at the lake and continue my pain therapy so I can go back to the golf course. “