U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Tyson Cole has moved from Korea to Iraq to Indiana. Now, Cole and his family are calling Menomonee Falls home. Their new residence came without a price tag.
Cole, a veteran who served until 2012, received the keys to a new, mortgage-free home last Saturday, June 15.
Operation Finally Home, a nonprofit that collaborates with builders and volunteers to build custom homes for veterans and widowed spouses, is behind the donation. This marks the nonprofit’s fifth Wisconsin-based project. Like most of their local homes, Cole’s was built by Belman Homes.
“It’s all pretty magnificent,” Cole, 38, says on the phone while packing up his family’s belongings back in Indiana. “Having a home taken care of takes a lot of stress off.”
Last September, Cole and his family – his wife, Jessica, and three children Lilliana, Luciana and Jonathan – said they thought they were traveling from Indiana to Wisconsin to learn more about the operation in general. But that was just an excuse to get them to the state. When they arrived, they were surprised with news that they had been accepted as Operation Finally Home recipients, after what Belman Homes builder and president, David Belman, calls a “vigorous selection process.”
They broke ground that day. Just this month, less than a year later, a police and motorcycle escort took the family to the finished house. Cole says the neighbors came over to welcome them, and he enjoyed visiting with the community.
The homes donated through the nonprofit are designed with the family in mind. For Cole, this means the master bedroom was built away from the road, with insulation and room-darkening blinds. The basement has a room that feels secure and isolated. It has its own climate control and will be “something that will really help” with his migraines, Cole says.
Cole was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury after hitting a concrete wall from a mortar attack in Baghdad. After serving in the military for more than 13 years, he has been diagnosed with PTSD.
“I’m so humbled and honored to have received (the home),” Cole says.
Together, the project and land cost about $520,000, says Belman, who is also the project coordinator of Operation Finally Home in Wisconsin. Much of that was donated, and the Cole family was given the home for free.