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Wounded Aggie veteran and his family receive mortgage-free home from nonprofit

The Eagle - 1/7/2018

Aggie and U.S. Army Lt. Garrett Spears and his family will soon have a new home, better equipped to help facilitate his road to recovery, thanks to support from national nonprofit Operation Finally Home.

Spears, who graduated from Texas A&M in 2011 with a degree in chemistry, was surprised with the announcement on Fox News Channel'sNew Year's Eve broadcast that his family would be receiving the mortgage-free home.

After graduation, Spears entered the Army as a chemical corps officer for the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. In 2013, Spears was struck by lightning during combat training, and the resulting injuries left him with a traumatic brain injury, burns across his body, the loss of his legs and short-term memory.

Following two years of inpatient rehabilitation, Spears was discharged from the Army and returned home in 2015 to San Antonio, where he lives with his mother and stepfather.

Michael Clint, Spears' stepfather, said the support from Operation Finally Home has been an amazing experience he still finds difficult to adequately describe.

"It's amazing, almost surreal," Clint said. "? To have Operation Finally Home come in and say, 'We can do this,' it's just beyond words. It's a phenomenal thing that they're willing to do for us to help us out in supporting Garrett's progress and recovery."

The national nonprofit's executive director, Russell Carroll, said while Spears' story is tragic, he and his team found the way Spears and his family responded to the situation to be a source of inspiration.

"He's just an inspiration, him and his family both," Carroll said.

He said seeing the relief on the faces of families like Spears' is something that "never gets old." Carroll said while the gift will certainly prove a benefit to Spears, the nonprofit also believes in the importance of supporting the families who give so much in support of their loved one.

"We wanted to highlight the caregivers," Carroll said. "In many cases, the focus on the community is on the wounded veteran, but it's really a wound to the extended family as well -- be it a spouse, parents or whomever the caregivers may be. It really is those caregivers that provide that ongoing support for growth and healing. We were glad to be able to focus on that."

The family's new home is set to be located in San Antonio near the community where they currently live so that Spears can continue to have that connection.

Carroll said the current design features a "home within a home" concept to give Spears some independence while keeping his family close for support. He said they hope to have the home completed and ready for the family to move into by sometime this year.

In addition to the support of the nonprofit, Clint said the Aggie community also has lived up to its reputation throughout this trying time.

Clint said Spears was a member of the Corps of Cadets E-1 outfit during his time at A&M and has remained a dedicated Aggie.

"He loved A&M, the traditions and the Corps," Clint said. "Still to this day, if you ask him where he went to school he will say, with a smile, 'Texas A&M, class of '11.' He wears that ring proudly."

He said Spears and his family -- including Spears' younger sister Kelsey, who is a sophomore communications major at A&M -- are grateful to the Aggie family for all the support they have given over the past few years.

"The Aggie community has been phenomenal," Clint said. "? The support has been extremely overwhelming. It helps, every bit."

Although he said Spears' progress might be slow, Clint said patience and hard work since the accident have proven that improvement is possible year over year for Spears.

Clint said he and his family hope to us this opportunity to reach out to other families in similar situations and to offer hope even when it seems like there is none.

"It's a slow process," he said. "You can't expect things to change overnight, in a week or in a month. You have to look at the long term. You can't give up hope, because if you do, you can't progress. Garrett shows that in what he's doing. It's a long process, and we just keep building."

To learn more about Operation Finally Home, visit operationfinallyhome.org.


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