Army Sgt. Michael Burke & Family Receive Mortgage-Free Port St. Lucie Home
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – April 10, 2013 – Florida Realtors® surprised a historical turnout of Realtors from across Florida at its first-ever “Rally for Homeownership” today at the Florida Capitol with a home donation to a wounded Florida veteran and his family.
Retired Army Sgt. Michael Burke, his wife Nichole, and two children Bryce and Layla, were presented with a newly remodeled, mortgage-free home in Port St. Lucie through a program offered by the Military Warriors Support Foundation. Florida Realtors partnered with the Foundation and Chase Bank to make the American Dream of homeownership possible for Burke and his family.
“Florida Realtors is proud to forge this partnership with Chase Bank and the Military Warriors Support Foundation to honor a military hero who has bravely served us,” said 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher, broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. “We are happy to help Sgt. Burke and his family fulfill the American Dream of lifelong homeownership.”
Led by Asher and state Rep. Matt Hudson (R-Naples), a real estate broker, the Rally took place as part of Great American Realtor Days this week, a two-day annual event during which Realtors from around Florida travel to Tallahassee to meet with their elected officials about legislation concerning affordable housing, property insurance, property taxes and business and regulatory issues that affect Floridians and visitors to the Sunshine State.
A deserving military hero
Burke, a native of Fort Pierce, always dreamed of being a soldier and defending his country. After Sept. 11, 2001, Burke enlisted “as quick and fast as I could,” he says. After basic training, Burke joined the Army Infantry in 2005 and trained in Fort Hood, Texas. A year later, he deployed to Baghdad, Iraq.
There only a week, Burke’s Humvee drove over and detonated a roadside bomb during his first mission, ejecting him from the vehicle. Burke was airlifted to a Baghdad hospital with massive injuries: a swollen brain, shrapnel wounds to the left arm, plus burns and injuries to his back muscles. After two months in rehab, Burke was ready to go back to combat, but the Army had a different idea.
“They [the Army] wanted to send me back home,” Burke explains. “I refused. I had only been in Iraq a couple of weeks. I needed to get back to my squadron…to my friends and fellow soldiers. Eventually I convinced them I deserved to stay.”
After 14 months of service, Burke’s tour ended and he returned to Fort Hood. He was promoted to sergeant and started training for another tour in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, Burke started having seizures due to the traumatic brain injury suffered in Baghdad. His military career over, he returned to Florida in September 2009. Burke received a Purple Heart for his service and is immensely proud to have served on behalf of the country he loves.
Homes for wounded warriors
Florida Realtors donated $20,000 to provide a three-year mentoring program and made arrangements to present the home to Sgt. Burke and his family. The association partnered with Chase Bank and the Military Warriors Support Foundation, a nonprofit that supports combat-wounded veterans during their transition to civilian life, to provide the Port St. Lucie home.
Established in 2007, the Foundation awards mortgage-free homes to wounded heroes injured during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of its Homes4WoundedHeroes program. Home recipients are veterans who have severe injuries and/or unique circumstances due to injuries received during active duty. The families receive three years of family and financial mentoring before obtaining the deed to the house. For Burke’s home, Chase Bank donated the three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot property and Home Depot handled the renovations.
Since the start of the Homes4WoundedHeroes program in 2010, the Military Warriors Support Foundation has coordinated the donation of 300 homes to wounded military veterans in the continental United States, including 56 in Florida. There are 12 homes currently available for donation to wounded veterans in Florida and 42 nationwide, with more homes coming into the program every day. The program is almost a third of the way to its goal of awarding 1,000 homes by the end of 2015.
Florida’s housing market revitalizing state’s economy
Housing and homeownership are critical to a strong and prosperous Florida economy. New home construction and home purchases spur productivity in a “domino effect,” creating jobs for millions of Floridians. According to the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, real estate remains the No. 1 economic generator in the state. Real estate, rentals and leasing accounted for $117.4 billion, or 15.6 percent, of Florida’s Gross Domestic Product in 2011. Add in construction, and it accounts for $147.4 billion, or 19.6 percent, of the state’s GDP in 2011. As homeownership increases, Florida’s economy strengthens with it.
“Realtors across Florida continue to advocate for legislation that supports economic development, strengthens our state’s economic recovery and helps the housing market rebound,” Asher said. “Housing creates jobs and jobs create housing opportunities – every additional 1,000 home sales means nearly 500 new jobs, while each home purchase pumps $60,000 into our economy. A stable and growing real estate market is vital to putting our citizens back to work, revitalizing our communities and preserving Florida’s future.”
Florida Realtors is the largest trade association in the state with more than 118,000 members. Its mission is to support the American Dream of homeownership, build strong communities and shape public policy on real property issues. Florida Realtors strives to encourage, promote and teach consistent standards for ethical practice and professionalism and to partner with local boards/associations to provide the information and tools for members to succeed in their business. Florida Realtors serves as the voice for real estate in Florida.
Digital media materials shown at the rally are available for download. For b-roll and video, go to: httpss://spideroak.com/browse/share/John_White_VisualImpact/BurkeFamilyVNR.