Operation Homefront giving Navy family a house

By Mary Baer - 5, 6 & 10 p.m. anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A local family who's been moving from place to place -- like so many military families -- is about to realize the American dream: a home of their own.

Since dad retired from the military, the Stone Family has put down roots in Jacksonville.  Thanks to JP Morgan Chase and Operation Homefront, they will be handed keys to a mortgage-free home on Sunday night.

The family found out just days ago that they are about to become homeowners.

"New house... It's gonna be a new start!" said 8-year-old Ben. 

Big sister Amber was even more candid: "It's better than the house we have now."

James Stone explains how they ended up getting the house.

"My wife, Beth was spending some time on Facebook -- I think that's where she saw it. So, she had told me to go check out the website and when I got there, I put it off, and finally got on the website and saw the house, signed up -- applied for it."

Two weeks later, they saw a photo of a single-family home in Mandarin that would soon be theirs.

"I had it going in my head for days... 'I so hope we get this.' And it's funny because I'm never one to play the lottery, or try to put my name in raffles or anything," Stone said. "We got off the phone and we were talking about it and made the comment 'homeowner' and, oh my gosh, I'm going to be a home owner, you know?"

Owning a home was always their plan, but plans don't always work out -- especially when you're frequently moving around the country and the world.

Serving two tours in Iraq as a medic.  He joined the Army Reserve in 2011 on a limited status. Due to injuries he sustained while deployed, he currently works in a supply capacity.

He's going to school full time for emergency management while holding down a job at Target.

"You get, like, it's farther away than when you started sometimes," Stone said. "That's where we were headed, so it was kind of nice that... as the dream kept getting pushed aside for other, for other things, that we still managed to get one, thanks to Operation Homefront."

"It's been a blessing, because we never thought we'd ever be able to say we actually own our own home," Beth Stone said. "We've always rented. And for someone else, you know, we're paying them -- not getting any real rewards for it."

Beth Stone home schools the children in their current rental home.  She said it's fine, but it's not really theirs.

"You can't like paint here.. Or add this here," she said. "So we're looking forward to make it ours. You know, put our signature on it."

Rachel Boyd loves her job as a housing caseworker for Operation Homefront.  She says families like the Stones deserve some financial freedom with a home -- mortgage-free -- thanks to the partnership with Chase.

"So rewarding to be able to put, you know keys in the hands of someone who really deserves it," Boyd said. "We've seen families make complete turn-arounds from this opportunity. And so it's a great opportunity, not only for the home, but also because we're able to then connect them with so many different other resources to make sure they get all the benefits they're deserving of."

The Chase program has given away over 240 homes since it began year and a half ago and continues helping veterans and military families all over the nation.  The company is helping place three other families in mortgage-free homes in Orlando.

"Among these three families, there's 16 children, so I'm very excited to meet all of them and participate in that event as well," Boyd said.

If receiving a home isn't enough to get the Stones excited, they also get to meet Tim McGraw on Sunday night.

Boyd says the star country singer and movie star has a huge heart and enjoys pitching in with the home giveaways.

"He just generally wants to give back to the military and really wants to show his support to our veterans. He's a great guy," Boyd said.

Sunday night update: Stone met with McGraw before the concert and was officially awarded the home.  Watch Mary Baer's interview with him.

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