Christmas came early for Anthony and Jodi Shepler. On March 29, the Phoenix couple were handed the keys to a newly refurbished Las Vegas home.
The house was donated by Bank of America and HomeStrong USA, which seeks to ease the financial burden of those who served in the military. Anthony Shepler is a National Guard veteran and retired U.S. Army corporal and on 100 percent disability.
“I couldn’t believe it. I’m glad I was sitting down,” Anthony said of learning he’d been chosen. “I didn’t think I had a chance of winning. There were certainly so many other applicants who are more needy than I am.”
HomeStrong USA didn’t see it that way. Perhaps the deciding committee was swayed by the essay portion of Anthony’s application, where he explained how he’d undergone two open heart surgeries due to hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy after 18 years of military service. The disease causes the heart muscle to become abnormally thick.
Additional hardships, such as Jodi’s breast cancer, left the couple in such tight financial circumstances that they knew they would likely never qualify for a home loan.
“We recognize that home ownership — a cornerstone of the American Dream — is not possible without the sacrifice of our service members,” said Jed Davis, CEO of HomeStrong USA. “We are humbled by the sacrifice of our brave men and women, and we are dedicated to creating sustainable home ownership opportunities for veterans like Anthony Shepler.”
Anthony and Jodi met when they worked for a Ford dealership. Love grew, and two years later they married. Eventually, Anthony’s symptoms became more obstructive. He would get winded even while not doing anything strenuous. He’d experienced severe heart palpitations, dizzy spells and blackouts.
“One minute you’re here, and the next, you’re on the ground, passed out,” Anthony said.
He had symptoms for about 15 years before the military finally diagnosed him.
After the surgeries removed 4 inches of muscle from the center of his heart, he was confined to a wheelchair for nearly a year. Jodi quit her job to be his full-time caretaker.
“I’m a breast cancer survivor, and he stuck around with me and was there for me,” she said. “But it was scary, and today it’s still scary because there are times … when I take him to (Veterans Affairs), they don’t know what to do for him,” she said. “He’s an odd case. … He’s just four months out of his last surgery, and he’s starting to show the same symptoms again.”
The couple were handed the keys to the house one day after their eighth wedding anniversary.
“I told him, ‘Now, what are you going to do for next year?’ ” Jodi said.
The 1,002-square-foot, single-story house in the southwest area has two bedrooms, two baths and a two-car garage. It is outfitted to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act except for ramps, which Anthony does not need at this point.
This was the first time Bank of America helped supply a HomeStrong USA house in Las Vegas.
“It was such an incredible opportunity for the bank,” said Steve McCracken, senior vice president of Bank of America. “We have such a commitment to the military and a long tradition of serving those (who served), dating back to the 1920s. So, the opportunity to do something here in Las Vegas, where many employees call this home, it’s such a great opportunity to reward this veteran with a house. … The great thing about (HomeStrong USA) is their whole mission is to work with veterans to provide opportunity. So, it’s a great partnership because you know that you’re working with one of the best organizations. And we’ve done this across the country, in multiple markets, so it’s a natural fit to work with these guys.”
McCracken said the bank has helped provide 19 houses to those in need in Nevada through various groups such as Habitat For Humanity and Housing For Nevada.
This donation is just one of many homes given to military families through HomeStrong’s Heroes Program, which also provides military families with access to ongoing financial education seminars and one-on-one housing counseling from USA Cares Certified Military Housing.
To give a hero’s welcome to the Sheplers, organizers made the home presentation an official event of the Nevada 150th Year Sesquicentennial, featuring the Pledge of Allegiance and an appearance by more than 100 Marines riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.