U.S. Army Veteran Aaron Hillis was visibly moved as he and his wife Elizabeth walked down the driveway of their new home for the first time on Friday.

The couple was given the Portifino Court home in Boiling Springs, mortgage-free, through a partnership between Freedom Alliance and U.S. Bank.

Hillis, 28 and a Florida native, enlisted in the Army in 2010, and in 2012 he was deployed to Afghanistan for nine months. While on patrol, the vehicle he was in drove over an improvised explosive device, which went off under him. The aftermath left Hillis with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. He was medically retired from the Army in February 2017.

Hillis said his new dream is to attend college, with a major in business and minor in accounting, and to eventually open up a gun range and store. This house is the first step in making that dream come to life, he said.

“We’re still in a bit of disbelief. It’s very amazing and exciting for the future,” he said. “This gift will definitely help ease a lot of financial stress and anxiety, and it’ll help me be able to focus on my heath and getting myself back to where I need to be mentally and physically.”

Tom Kilgannon, president of Freedom Alliance, said the house was donated by U.S. Bank through its Housing Opportunities after Military Engagement program. It is in partnership with Freedom Alliance’s Heroes to Homeowners program.

“Aaron is an American hero, and we wanted to give him the American dream of home-ownership,” Kilgannon said. “Having a home like this will help him concentrate on those priorities of getting well and going to college.”

Hillis and his wife moved to Boiling Springs from Olympia, Wash., and will begin settling into the renovated three-bedroom, two-bathroom house as soon as the moving truck arrives in the next few days.

“My mom knows the area pretty well, so I do know, it’s a great area and a great place to live,” he said. “We’re really excited for it.” ___

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