Editor’s Note: The following is one of the Western Journal’s most popular patriotic-themed stories, re-posted in honor of Independence Day.
Aaron Cabrera knows a lot about suffering and loss. He’s experienced much of both in his life, but continues to push himself to learn, improve himself, and serve others.
Cabrera was born in Cuba but his family sought political asylum in the United States. The day after 9/11, when he was living in Texas as a young 20-something, Cabrera felt the need to serve this great country and got up and enrolled in the Army.
Nearly nine years later, and after two tours in Iraq, Cabrera was not the same person who’d entered the military all those years ago. He had earned a “Purple Heart, a Combat Action Badge, an Iraq Campaign Medal with two stars, five Army Commendation Medals, two Army Good Conduct Medals and a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, among other awards,” according to Operation Finally Home’s website.
But those recognitions had come at a price. A piece of shrapnel nearly took his life when it tore through him, from his back through his stomach, and a medic barely saved his life. He returned to his work after healing, but the injury left its mark on him.
Now he deals with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, migraines, and hearing loss.
He’s also suffered the loss of his mother and his oldest son, both of whom took their own lives.
But Cabrera has shown unparalleled resilience. He continues to pursue his education, hoping to eventually become a music educator, and keeps active hiking, making music and hanging out with his son.
He took the pain of losing his family members and started a nonprofit, “Diego’s Wish,” to help families who have also lost children to suicide. He also co-founded the nonprofit “Warriors Within” to assist veterans through yoga and meditation classes.
So when he was invited to a special celebration in November 2021, he figured it was some sort of effort to honor Purple Heart recipients — but as it turned out, it was a ceremony just for him.
During that ceremony, he learned a brand-new home was being built just for him and his family in Liberty Hill, Texas. It would come fully furnished and mortgage-free, giving him comfortable, worry-free accommodations for the foreseeable future.
“It means the world to my son and I, and I would never be able to repay this incredible gift,” he said, according to KEYE-TV. “I hope to one day to be able to pay it forward in some sort of capacity, so thank you, I appreciate it.
“Moving forward, tomorrow is a new day, thanks to all of you. A new life begins on the other side of that door; a new life that to hopefully make my sons proud and my friends and do as much as I can in this unforgiving world.”
The generous gift was made possible through a partnership between Operation Finally Home (OPFH), Highland Homes, and H-E-B Operation Appreciation.
“Operation Finally Home provides mortgage-free homes, home modifications and transitional housing to wounded, ill and injured military veterans, first responders and their families in honor of their service and sacrifice to country and community,” the OPFH states on their website.
“Based in New Braunfels, Texas, Operation Finally Home was established in 2005 as a non-partisan/non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and has completed or is in the planning stages on more than 300 home projects in more than 31 states.”
It’s the 40th home H-E-B had helped build for needy recipients.
“It is just truly an honor to be here with each of you, as we welcome home an American hero and his family for his profound service and sacrifice to this great country,” H-E-B public affairs manager Johnny Mojica said, according to KEYE-TV.
The official handover took place on Dec. 22, and Cabrera was able to be in his new home for the holidays.
“There is one thing to say loved by your community,” Cabrera said, according to KTBC.
“This is really ‘loved by your community.'”
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