Twenty-six year National Guardsman Jerrod Hays lost nearly half his face to a roadside bomb in Iraq. Now, like too many other Americans, he could lose his home to banks.
Hays and wife Nancy bought their home on Sept. 11, 2007, seven months after he nearly died in an attack. It was their dream home, he told The Wichita Eagle, built with “real wood” in 1900. He found comfort in the house.
The couple had been paying their bills but got behind, and Hays blames himself. “It was our fault,” he explained. He said the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department, which oversees the state’s National Guard, and a retired adjutant general have tried to help the couple with their mortgage. Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Adjutant General’s Department, said: “Our department is still assisting him, and we want to assist him in any way we can.” Members of the military who come into mortgage trouble can qualify for some legal protection in such instances.
Hays said he and his wife sought help from a Florida company to the cost of $5,000, but the company took advantage of them. Earlier this year their home was sold at an auction. Hays, who was still on active duty, showed up at the courthouse in uniform. “Get all blowed up in Iraq, just to have your American dream taken away from you,” he told the Eagle. After the sale he went out to the parking lot and cried “like a little school kid.” He understands the sale should have been canceled because he was on active duty at the time, but he and his wife missed the deadline to file the paperwork because they thought the Florida company was handling it. Somehow however, the sale was canceled.
The couple owes about $114,000 on their home loan, which they had been paying off in installments of $1,105. But their income now is at a low point. Hays’ military retirement pay is much less than what he received before, and his disability checks have yet to come through. He’s heard there is several months’ delay in processing payments. But the lender is no longer accepting payments, and because he is not on active duty anymore, he has lost some legal protections. They fear being foreclosed on at any time.
Recently the couple turned to a soldiers’ relief fund to help pay an electrical bill. This cost Hays further pride. An official with the fund made them “feel like a loser” for seeking help, Hays said. The retired adjutant general who has been involved in the situation says the guardsman has repeatedly told him that it was Hays’ job to help others, and “I’m not supposed to need help.”
Hays remains sure that going to war was the right thing to do and that American soldiers should still be there. “I’d do it all over again,” he said of his service.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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