Life After Combat: A New Start and a New Home

A mortgage-free home helps a wounded officer start a new chapter in a new home.

SAM_0160-(2) While on deployment in Iraq, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class Michael Hard proudly displays the Stars and Stripes in front of his modified MRAP military vehicle.

When U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class (PO2) Michael Hard was honorably discharged from the military in 2013 with severe injuries, he couldn’t help but feel a great sense of responsibility for the men and women still away on deployment.

Michael wanted to do everything he could to help his fellow soldiers abroad, but the daily pain of his injuries reminded him that his life has drastically changed and he needed to take a different approach to his future.

When recalling his determination to continue fighting for his country, Michael says, “A family friend gave me the wise counsel that you just need to finally accept that God has closed that chapter of your life.”

group_shot Michael poses with his father and two sisters. 'This home has given me such peace of mind,' he says.

This change in perspective encouraged Michael to prioritize his future. With the gift of a mortgage-free home in Elk Grove, California, from Operation FINALLY HOME and PulteGroup’s Built to Honor program, Michael was able to start his new chapter.

Since receiving his home in December 2014, Michael has decided to continue with his education. He is interested in learning about the political process and how he can help his fellow Americans at home.

“The blessing of this home has really allowed me to focus on school. I am attending the Helms School of Government at Liberty University and have been able to maintain a 4.0 GPA,” Michael proudly proclaims. He added, “This home has also given me such a peace of mind as I go through surgeries and medical procedures.”

image001 Michael poses in front of his new house with folks from Operation FINALLY HOME, PulteGroup and MLB All-Star Sean Doolittle (second from left), a pitcher for the Oakland A’s who helped raise funds.

While Michael jokes that he is probably not going win any track events any time soon, he’s thankful for the progress he’s made. Another blessing that came with his home was a new neighbor with similar experiences.

U.S. Army Spc. Derrick Winchell is a fellow home recipient of Operation FINALLY HOME. Derrick and Michael received their homes together during a dedication ceremony held right before Christmas.

“To have another veteran right next door was just one more addition to an already amazing situation,” Michael says.

In his free time, Michael enjoys volunteering with his church and the veteran community. He hopes to get more involved with organizations for veterans interested in politics.

dedication1 a Members of the colorguard, fellow veterans and a huge contingent of the Elk Grove, California, community were on hand to give Michael a hero’s welcome. Builder PulteGroup recognized those who generously donated the time and materials it took to make Michael’s home a reality.

“We veterans bring a mentality that we want to do what is best for Americans, instead of just lining our own pockets,” he explains. And to the donors and supporters of Operation FINALLY HOME, Michael has this message: “Thank you could never be said enough. You will always be in my thoughts and prayers. You have made such an amazing impact on not only my life, but the lives of family and friends, as well.”

For more information on Operation FINALLY HOME and to make a donation to help veterans like Michael, visit