A local veteran and his family have been awarded the first Homes on the Homefront mortgage-free residence in Oklahoma.
Army National Guard Spc. Michael Larkin, his wife Jodi and the couple's children, Bayleigh and Bostyn, accepted the keys to their renovated home in northwest Ardmore Wednesday. Larkin called being selected to receive the home an honor.
"I really don't have any words to say. It's an honor and means so much to our family," he said.
Larkin, who grew up in Madill, said pride in his country and the desire to earn education benefits led him to enlist in the Army National Guard in 2000.
He served in the i being reassigned fairs duties. In 20 deployed to Afghanistan was honorably discharged in 2010.
Today, Larkin and his wife are full-time student seeking university degrees in an effort to reach their goals to become teachers.
However, the pair discovered their status as full-time students made it difficult to be approved for a home loan. Their dreams of a home of their own had been put on hold. Before becoming recipients of Homes on the Homefront, the couple and their children had been living in a rental house in Dickson.
Larkin said Wednesday he considered himself lucky to have been accepted, not only as the first local recipient, but the first in the state.
"There are so many veterans that deserve this as well. It's wonderful that they come in and do this for veterans," he said.
His wife agreed.
"It's one of those things you think will never happen to you. I'm so overwhelmed to have a place to call our own now," she said.
And Larkin and his wife aren't the only ones who are thrilled. Their daughter, Bayleigh, already has plans for her very own room.
"We are going to paint my room turquoise and put stickers on the wall that are flowers," she said, adding, "I'm excited because we will be moving next door to my friend that I play soccer with." Homes on the Homefront is part of Operation Homefront. (The Ardmoreite first reported the program was seeking a local recipient in its April 14 edition.) The program provides mortgage-free homes to veterans, service members and their families. The homes are donated by bank partners. Officials said Wells Fargo provided the home in Ardmore.
To date, the program has awarded more than 125 mortgage-free homes throughout the country. An estimated 100 additional families have been matched with homes, and are awaiting move-in dates.
"With the tragic events that have taken place over the last few weeks throughout the state of Oklahoma, it is a great feeling to be able to show our support for a local military family in Ardmore," said Carol Herrick, Operation Homefront Oklahoma/Arkansas executive director, on Wednesday. "The Larkin family is a perfect representation of the values and mission of Operation Homefront and what we look for in the Homes on the Homefront program. I am very thrilled that we were able to award our first-ever mortgage-free home today in Oklahoma." For the family, the house is already truly their home.
"It's a new start," Larkin said.
"It's an amazing blessing to know that one day when we are old and gone, the girls will have a place to go that they grew up in," Jodi said.
Operation Homefront Oklahoma/Arkansas can be accessed online at www.operationhomefront.net/okar. Homes on the Homefront is at www.operationhomefront.net/HomesontheHomefront.