PLANT CITY Disabled Army veteran Gilbert Corpus fell in love with his own piece of the American dream as soon as he saw it.
"I feel so blessed," said Corpus, who is to receive the home south of downtown mortgage-free, thanks to a nonprofit that helps veterans.
He will live in the home for a six-month trial period, and assuming everything goes as expected the ownership transfers to him.
Corpus was presented the keys of the three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath home Wednesday by officials from Operation Homefront and Wells Fargo.
The bank extensively remodeled the building, including adding a wood deck out back, before handing over the home.
Operation Homefront has been offering homes to veterans for more than a year. The home at 1506 James L. Redman Parkway is to become the first home given out in Plant City and the 23rd in Florida.
Corpus, 44, is moving into the home with his 18-year-old daughter Mariah. He said he couldn't believe his good fortune.
"I'm out of words to describe how I feel. It's great. It's beautiful," he said.
Corpus, born in the Philippines and raised in Cleveland, joined the Army when he was 18 and fought in the Gulf War and Iraq. He received the Bronze Star and retired as a sergeant in February on medical disability.
Corpus was living in Killeen, Texas before moving to Plant City, where he has relatives.
Operation Homefront, founded in 2002, started its Homes for the Homefront program a little more than a year ago. The charity based in San Antonio, Texas also provides a variety of help for veterans, including emergency financial assistance, auto repair, food and more.
Viridiana Gilbert, who is Operation Homefront's caseworker assigned to this part of Florida, said veterans are chosen based on such factors as need and ties to the area. The ownership of the home transfers to the veteran after a six-month period, during which a counselor works with them on such matters as finances, she said.
Wells Fargo, Bank of America and other lenders give the homes to the charity after the residences have been taken back in foreclosure.
Veterans can find out how to apply for a home by going to the Operation Homefront page, at www.operationhomefront.net.