September 17, 2021

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Welcome home! Veteran, family ‘beyond grateful’ for mortgage-free house

Aaron was determined to join the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and soon began training. The couple had their first son Keegan in 2009 and their daughter Taytum followed suit.

In 2012, Aaron was posted to Afghanistan and by then had a second son, Porter. Then in 2014, during his second deployment to Afghanistan, an accident would change Aaron’s life and career forever.

Aaron Zurn and his family are presented with a photo of a new house being built for them in Vandalia.  (David Jablonski,

Aaron Zurn and his family are presented with a photo of a new house being built for them in Vandalia. (David Jablonski,

Photo credit: David Jablonski,

Photo credit: David Jablonski,

“Aaron fell from the tail of a helicopter while on an operational mission,” Brittany said. “He was about 14 feet in the air.”

The helicopter landed in a remote area and bounced off the ground with the doors open. Aaron fell out with all of his gear on his back. He landed on his head and shoulder.

“You were in the middle of nowhere and he couldn’t get any treatment,” Brittany said. “He knew he was hurt, but it was too dangerous for anyone to come back and get him. So he just kept doing his job. “

Aaron had taken on communications responsibility for his unit, and Brittany said she’d hear from him almost every night. After four days of no communication, she became concerned.

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“He finally called me one morning and I could tell by the way he spoke that something was wrong with him,” Brittany said. “I’ve known him all my life!”

When Aaron finally received medical treatment, it was found that he had a concussion and his brain was injured in the fall. He was sent home to his family.

But Aaron’s journey was far from over. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and felt extremely guilty for leaving his unit, especially after two men were shot and one of them died. That, coupled with his brain injury, “threw him on the scales,” Brittany said.

The house of the Zurn family in Vandalia.  The house was built for the family and donated by

The house of the Zurn family in Vandalia. The house was built for the family and donated by Operation Endlich Home, a non-profit organization that provides mortgage-free homes to injured military veterans. CONTRIBUTED

“During that time, PTSD was not known,” Brittany said. “There was still a lot of stigma behind it. It was hard for Aaron to come to terms with, especially the end of his military career. “

Brittany was hoping to get Aaron to join the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping soldiers injured while on duty. But at the time, the organization mainly helped soldiers who were suffering from limb or mobility problems.

“They had never put a Marine with the Special Forces For Something Insane on the program,” Brittany said. “We fought for six months to get him in.”

This was vital for the couple because once Aaron left the military, they had no income and no way to support their three children. After Aaron was accepted into the program, the couple decided to return to Vandalia to plan their next steps.

In June 2017, the family was back in Ohio and Aaron was “medically retired” from the military. But he needed care, so Brittany, the teacher, was unable to work full time. They moved in with Brittany’s parents.

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Being back home was a blessing in many ways, but the biggest one was having former teachers contact the family and tell Brittany about Operation Home At Last, a nonprofit that provides mortgage-free homes to wounded, sick, and injured military veterans . Brittany sent in an application and got a surprising phone call just two weeks later.

“They said they wanted to build a house for us!” Said Brittany.

Josh Dungan of JM Dungan Custom Homes happened to be the builder and another schoolmate of Aaron and Brittany. They worked together to design an accessible single story home and the family received the keys in late April 2021.

And not only did the family get the house, they got a full house full of furniture thanks to the generous support of the community they call home.

“We could never have done anything this big for our children,” said Brittany. “A great burden has been taken off his shoulders for Aaron as he has always been a wonderful provider. We are extremely grateful to everyone involved! “

Contact this contributing author at [email protected].