Veteran, paralympian receives mortgage-free home

By Katie Demeria

BASYE — Navy veteran Paul Hurley thinks his English bulldog Jackson will enjoy his new home — the fenced yard, Hurley said, will definitely be useful.

And Hurley, 28, said he is very excited about the mortgage-free house.

Operation Homefront, Wells Fargo, and Panorama Realty were present at Hurley’s new home Thursday to present him and his girlfriend Katie Knodt with their keys.

“I’m excited, so excited,” Hurley said. “A little overwhelmed, but not much. I can’t believe this is happening, really.”

Hurley served as a gunner’s mate in the Navy from 2005-09. He lost his right leg just above the knee while deployed in Bahrain.

His injury has not stopped Hurley from becoming both a talented rower and skier, activities that are readily available to him in his new location.

“I love it, it’s between two lakes, so rowing will be easy,” he said.

Hurley won a bronze medal in Par-Rowing for the United States in the 2013 Paralympic Games in South Korea, and is training to represent his country again in 2016.

Operation Homefront found out about Hurley after he sent them an application asking to be considered for a mortgage-free home. Sarah Groom, Hurley’s case worker, said the process for finding the right home for the right veteran is extensive.

“We do profiles on all of them to find out everything about who they are and what they need,” Groom said. “He’s perfect for this house.”

She said the organization looks at four aspects of a house in order to match it with the right veteran.

A connection to the community, especially an active support system, is crucial. An appropriate construction that allows the individual to live well while in the home is also necessary, as is financial sustainability and access to a case worker who can do quarterly visits.

Fortunately for Hurley, the house is close to his mother and sister, and the bedroom is on the first floor.

The house’s proximity to Bryce Ski Resort was also a big bonus, Hurley said. He got into adaptive skiing with his friend Scott Lynch two years ago.

The house became available to Hurley because Wells Fargo reached out to Operation Homefront about its availability. Tommye Arnold, who is with the bank’s Community Affairs Office, was there to give Hurley the key.

“This is just a small gesture that we can do for him after all he’s given for us,” Arnold said. “We’re so happy to be able to do whatever we can for him and other veterans like him.”

With the new home, Hurley said he is hopeful that he can achieve one of his long-term goals: becoming an entrepreneur.

“I’d like to open a brewery. I’ve been working on that for a while,” he said. “I needed either a place, or to take out a mortgage on a place, so actually this has helped me get to that goal a lot sooner.”

But one of his biggest focuses right now, he said, is making it to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Paralympic Games as a Para-Rower — trials are in late June.

“I think the priority right now is probably 2016, so I’m kind of looking at the long game, but I’m trying to make it about this year too,” he said. “I’ve got to kick into high gear soon.”

To learn more about Operation Homefront, or to suggest a veteran in need of a home, go to www.operationhomefront.net.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com