IRVING, Texas — Luisa Velez was supposed to just take a drive through Irving Friday with a general contractor who wanted to show her an empty lot where her home might stand someday.
Instead she got the surprise of her life: the lot crowded with strangers applauding her arrival and to celebrate the home that will be built there free of charge.
"Welcome to your future home," said Phil Crone of the Dallas Builders Association.
"Welcome home to Irving, we're excited to have you," said Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer.
"This is crazy," Velez said as she wiped away tears. "This is the craziest thing that's ever happened to us," she said as she held tight to her son, Spencer.
Luisa Velez is a Navy veteran, a medic who in hospitals on the front lines in Iraq saw the worst of the worst. Now, a single mom on disability with physical injuries and a diagnosis of PTSD, she saw the best.
Operation Finally Home has done this more than 350 times across the country. Luisa is the next to get a mortgage-free home. The lot where the home will be built, provided with the help of the City of Irving.
"Was not expecting any of this at all. At all," Velez said. "Definitely, shock of my life."
Her 10-year-old son, Spencer, was equally shocked that he was standing in what, in the next six months, will be his own backyard. They both currently live with Luisa's mom in Duncanville.
"I'm kind of just amazed. I didn't think we were going to get it today," he said.
"And these are young men and women that definitely deserve a hand up, not a hand out, and that's what we try to provide," said Operation Finally Home project manager Ronnie Lyles.
"And with all the challenges in the market I don't think this would be possible without the city of Irving helping out the way that they have," said Phil Crone with the Dallas Builders Association.
"I never thought being in the service was glamorous or, I never did it for accolades," said Velez. "The outcome is this opportunity now. And once again the military has done me a great service."
"Everybody that's participating in this, in my book, is one of the best people in the world," she said.
But the message she got Friday was that she and other veterans are actually the best people in the world and deserve place to call home.
"This is gonna be awesome to call this home," she said. "Irving is just fine with me. Just fine with me!"