Tears streamed down the face of Kevin Palacios, a purple heart recipient and veteran of the war in Afghanistan, as it was announced that he was the new owner of a fully furnished mortgage-free home on Long Island.
After finding out he was a finalist in the Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation’s Purple Hearts Campaign Contest, Hauppauge manager Steve Probst announced that Palacios was the winner and introduced him to his new home in Mastic.
“I can tell you this man is deserving, and I knew it the first minute I met him,” Probst told the crowd at Brookhaven Town Hall on Tuesday.
After being wounded during two tours in Afghanistan, he came back to civilian life got a degree at Farmingdale State College. He now works with fellow veterans at a job he describes as lovable.
“When you get out of the military nobody really teaches you how to come back to this world,” said Palacios. “It’s a place that I once knew and once called home.”
To help injured veterans assimilate back into civilian life, the foundation decided they wanted to give away a house mortgage free and fully furnished. With the help of the Long Island Board of Realtors, the Interior Design Society’s Long Island Chapter, and many local businesses this three bedroom home was fully decorated, renovated and furnished for the family.
“I’ve gone and seen a whole different side of the word and it made me mature at a different level,” said Palacios. “While it was sometimes a struggle to adapt to this life, I was lucky to graduate and get a job with people I consider family.”
For veterans, it can be hard to ease back into civilian life, with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), injuries, and other issues they face from their experience serving on the front lines.
“You have to get right back into it or you’re going to lose yourself,” said Palacios.
Finishing college, getting a job, and figuring out the future are all part of this new life these veterans have to adapt to.
“These young veterans come into my office with their eligibility certificate and say they want to go to college but, they have a lot of fear in their eyes,” said Eric Farina, director of veteran affairs at Farmingdale State College. “They have been trained to face fear and roadside bombs, all the brave things that come with military service in a combat zone but they were not prepped to go sit in an English 101 class with kids that are five years younger than them.”
Long Island has the highest concentration of veterans in New York State and the second largest in the nation. This is just a start for how they can be paid back for the selfless service they gave.
This foundation is planning to work continuously hard to help other veterans receive the help they need through their Purple Hearts Campaign.
“You deserve this,” Probst told Palacios as he held back tears.