Staff Sergeant Rafael Arias Fernandez gave up much of his life for his country as a United States Marine and on Monday, the South Florida community gave back to him in a big way.
“This is awesome. Wow!,” Fernandez said Monday as he looked at his gift.
Staff Sergeant Fernandez’s story dates back to 2003 when he was stationed in Iraq. Fernandez was on security duty in Baghdad when his unit was ambushed. The blast from a rocket propelled grenade would propel his body onto a car.
“I continued to fight---you’re trained to do what you need to do,” Fernandez said.
What he didn’t know at the time was his face, neck, back, and hip had been hurt. X-rays and MRI’s revealed he also had a traumatic brain injury. Fernandez had to learn to speak again after the injury.
The American hero now has a brand new, mortgage free home with an American flag proudly flying in front of it. The refurbished home was renovated by the Grove Handy Man company. Chase Bank removed the mortgage as part of the Building Homes for Heroes partnership to help wounded vets.
“We get to have our very own actual house in our whole entire life,” said Camilla Fernandez. “This is for you.”
Fernandez’s children were presented with their very own rooms as well. Nicolas got a brand new room in blue and his sister Camila got a purple one. Both children understand the sacrifices their father made for them and for their country, calling him their “biggest hero.”
While Fernandez is a hero to his children and all Americans, he said the country that welcomed him back and gives back to him is full of heroes.
“I am not a hero,” Fernandez said. “The heroes here are you guys and the community who supports us when we come back.”
On Monday, Fernandez was celebrated as a hero and he and his family is now ready to make lifelong memories in a home of their own.