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Op-Ed: Ukrainian Crisis Reminds Us That Our Heroes Remain Underserved 

As the ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues with details of new attacks on civilian targets daily, it seems that every first responder, firefighter, healthcare worker–Ukraine’s heroes–are jumping into action to help their fellow brethren.  

In fact, in times of intense conflict, the acts of serving others do not solely fall to soldiers. Heroes are the first to step up their game. These are those who knowingly put the lives of others before their own. They are our neighbors one day, and our saviors the next. The events in Ukraine serve as a stark reminder that our own nation’s heroes remain underserved. 

I sit here and watch as a nation of heroes rush to help others around them in the face of tragedy, and defend their land. It’s an extreme case, but I’m certain, America’s heroes would do no less in such a circumstance. 

I know this as fact because I work with them daily. 

Our heroes who serve, protect and sacrifice to make our communities a better place deserve as much as anyone to be able to live in those very communities, but market conditions make homeownership a continuing struggle. Setting aside rising interest rates, lack of supply and falling affordability, the salaries of working-class heroes, be it police officers or teachers, are not exactly making anyone wealthy. But we know owning a home will. 

Crystal Anderson is a perfect example. Crystal served in the Navy, where she was on the healthcare frontline administering IVs and performing field wraps. In short, she said she “ trained for chaos.” She survived her deployment to Guantanamo Bay, and more recently, helped treat COVID-19 patients in New York City. 

But all of her missions didn’t prepare her for another battle; the battle to find a home. After four or five failed offers, her VA offer finally was accepted. But then a week before closing, the appraisal came in too low, and Crystal lost out on the home she wanted, yet again. 

“Of course, I’m not rich, so the offer got taken off the table, and I had to start my search again,” Crystal said.  

It wasn’t until Crystal linked with one of our Homes for Heroes specialists, Mario Gonzalez, Founder and Mortgage Broker at Navy to Navy Homes in Jacksonville, Florida, that she was able to find the assistance she needed to get her into the home of her dreams. In this case, it was enough, but we need to do better as an industry. 

Not only do our heroes work odd hours, making the home buying process even more challenging, but many of them also qualify for special assistance programs or VA loan financing. That special financing originally intended to help get our heroes into homes can be perceived as a detriment or challenge to sellers, making their offers appear less attractive, and thus inhibiting their chances of being accepted in a competitive housing market. In Crystal’s story, her VA loan especially can come with a sigma for those not educated enough on the value they carry.  

“Very simply put, the VA loan is not more dangerous than any other kind of loan,” Gonzalez said. “You’re not accepting any greater risk in the grand scheme of things.”  

It will take us all working together to educate ourselves and consumers in order to move past this negative stigma, and help our heroes get into the homes they very much deserve in the communities they serve. 

About Author: Abby Waltz

Abby Waltz serves as National Director for Homes for Heroes, a nationwide network of affiliate real estate, mortgage, and local business specialists all committed to providing easy ways for heroes to save on a home. Since 2009, Homes for Heroes has helped more than 53,000 heroes save nearly $100 million on their real estate transactions, sold more than $13.7 billion in real estate to heroes, actively partnered with more than 4,200 like-minded real estate and mortgage professionals who’ve joined in the mission, and has donated in excess of $1.1 million to heroes in need through the Homes for Heroes Foundation.
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