LOS ANGELES – Nov. 14, 2015 – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Oskar R. Zepeda and his family got “more than a surprise” Saturday evening in front of an enthusiastic crowd at a UCLA football game with the announcement that they will soon be the recipients of a new mortgage-free Pulte home.
“This is more than a surprise,” said Zepeda, holding back tears of joy. “I did my best for the American people, for my family, and for our country. And you know what? This is the best gift anyone could give back to us…We weren’t expecting this. God bless America."
During a game timeout, Zepeda, his wife Lisa and two daughters were escorted onto the field for the Pulte surprise announcement.
A longtime Bruins fan and unaware of the surprise, Zepeda thought he was attending the game because of the medical care he has received from UCLA Medical Center. The Purple Heart recipient and his family were stunned at the Rose Bowl in front of nearly 70,000 fans with the news that they will soon be homeowners thanks to PulteGroup’s Built to Honor program and Operation FINALLY HOME.
“He was so totally amazed, that it took him a moment to contemplate what was happening. The family was emotional and elated as thousands of fans kept cheering louder and louder,” said Chris Edgar, PulteGroup’s Southern California Division President. “The stadium erupted with enthusiasm. Everyone loved being a part of doing something very special for such a worthy veteran. He is truly an American hero.”
The home will be built in Pulte’s Avelina community in Perris, California, and customized and ready for the Zepeda family in early 2016. It will be built by Pulte Homes in collaboration with dozens of local trade contractors and building partners. Zepeda applied to be considered for a new home with Operation FINALLY HOME, an organization that helps America’s military heroes and their family’s transition to the home front by addressing one of their most pressing needs – a home to call their own.
Zepeda, a member of the elite U.S. Army Rangers, was severely injured when an enemy combatant detonated a grenade during his ninth deployment in 2011. As he lay wounded, Zepeda managed to continue calling out instructions to his fellow Rangers, allowing his comrades to avoid further injury. As a result of the blast, Zepeda suffered multiple injuries and has received more than 30 surgeries. He continues his recovery with the assistance of medical care from UCLA Medical Center and the Operation Mend program.
A highly-decorated veteran who currently resides in Sylmar, California with his wife and two children, Zepeda has been honored with numerous awards, including a Purple Heart. The lifelong UCLA fan recently joined the bicycle group “Ride to Recovery” as a new therapy and hopes to help other biking disabled service members.
About Built to Honor™
PulteGroup’s Built to Honor™ program was launched in 2013 to recognize and thank returning military personnel who have been injured during their term of service by providing mortgage-free homes to veterans and their families. Built to Honor works in partnership with nonprofit organizations, such as Operation FINALLY HOME, to identify veteran candidates. Follow Built to Honor on Twitter: @BuiltToHonor.