Marine Lance Cpl. Brett Dawson Jr. was in Marjah, Afghanistan in 2010 and had just finished up a 10-hour patrol when he got a call about a possible roadside bomb. In telling the rest of the story, he gives a glimpse of his dry sense of humor.
“I found the IED,” he said. “The bad way.”
Brett sustained a traumatic brain injury, loss of vision in his right eye, hearing loss along with back and knee problems. The IED blast came five months into his first seven-month deployment. He spent nine months recovering in the hospital and was medically retired in 2012. He had served four years and thought the Marines would be a career. He was awarded a Purple Heart.
He was unsure what his future would hold but eventually got a job in security in Camden, New Jersey. That led him to his current position in logistics at a tech company. He has shared custody of his son, Brett, 7, and lives with his fiancée, Rebecca, in a condo that is tight on space. Becoming a homeowner was something he knew he wanted to do but living paycheck to paycheck while managing the residual effects of his injuries, made that goal seem further and further away.
When he found Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront (HOTH) program, he applied and was elated when he learned that he had been accepted into the program. In January, Brett moves into his home in Glassboro, New Jersey, a town that features streets named after members of his family.
“I was shocked,” Brett said. “It’s one of those things you don’t expect it to happen and then it happens.”
In HOTH, Brett will receive financial counseling to build savings, reduce debt and help with budgeting in the future. Upon program completion, Operation Homefront will deed Brett the house, donated by JPMorgan Chase, mortgage-free.
Having the extra space in the home is something Brett feels will be a great benefit to him. “The condo is like 600 square feet less than the house. I would have enough room to actually breathe. I look forward to it. I can’t wait,” he said.
His son is also excited.
“He’s super psyched,” Brett said. “He can’t wait.”