JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A U.S. Navy Veteran, his wife, and his service dog got the surprise of a lifetime on Thursday.
Petty Officer John Tappen and his wife, Emily, received a brand-new house in the St. Nicholas neighborhood.
Tappen was chosen to receive a mortgage-free home from K-9s For Warriors, the nation’s largest veteran service organization focused on providing highly trained Service Dogs to Warriors.
“Just a few years ago, I was considering suicide,” Tappen said after walking into the first house he’s ever had. “To see this now, and all these people giving me the reason that I am pushing every day to hopefully end veteran suicide, it is giving me a reason to live.”
Tappen graduated from K9s For Warriors three years ago. He served in the Navy for more than four years, including a nine-month combat tour before being discharged in 2011.
The Tappens have been married for nearly two years and moved to northeast Florida from New England.
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They told News4JAX the new home is life-changing.
“This is going to give us the opportunity to get out of debt [and] build a future for ourselves,” Emily Tappen said.
Tappen became the fifth veteran to receive a new house from K9s For Warriors.
Carl Cricco, the CEO of K9s For Warriors, said selecting Tappen and K9 Henry was easy.
“They are getting back to a life of dignity and independence,” Cricco said. “They are getting their life back. We are chiseling away at the anxieties that these veterans have to deal with in order for them to have the best chance of having a full and happy life.”
The brand-new house includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a garage. JWB Real Estate Capital provided the home.
The company’s president, Alex Sifakis, said the process took about six months from start to finish.
“Homelessness is a huge issue — affordable housing is a huge issue,” Sifakis said. “Giving someone a house can really transform their life.”
Tappen can attest.
“I would never have this without you guys. So, thank you so, so much,” Tappen said to the group of representatives from K9s For Warriors and JWB Real Estate Capital before being given a round of applause. “There is a community out there. For someone who might be suffering, you know what give it another day. Talk to someone. Reach out. People want to help you. This is a part of the reason why if I never reached out, I would never be here, and none of this would’ve ever happened.”
Cricco said K9s for Warriors graduates 16 veterans and K9 teams every month — 12 of them are in Florida and four in Texas.
Click here to learn more about K9s For Warriors.