Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan The Bank of America and the Military Warriors Support Foundation donated a new home to former U.S. Sgt. Daniel Lister and his family in Buford on Tuesday. Sgt. Lister served with the US Army from 2002 through 2011, participating in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. On June 2, 2010, he suffered injuries to his leg and arm when stepping on an IED during combat.
BUFORD -- When he walks out in his front yard and looks around at the green grass, the winding sidewalk and glances up at the big, blue sky, former U.S. Sgt. Daniel Lister can hardly believe it.
Lister said he's still getting used to the idea that he owns a beautiful, two-story brick home in suburban Buford. "It's hard to believe," he said, smiling. "I'm still amazed. This is the first time we've owned anything larger than a car."
The Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran got the keys to the home on May 2, a mortgage-free donation from Bank of America and the Military Warriors Support Foundation, which honors soldiers who were injured in service.
While serving, Lister suffered injuries to his leg and arm after stepping on an improvised explosive device on June 2, 2010. He served the U.S. Army as a dismounted route clearance squad leader from February 2002 through June 2011.
The 31-year-old fielded questions from Atlanta media Tuesday afternoon during a welcome home ceremony hosted by Bank of America. He spoke in excited tones about his new home. His wife, Mandy, a Marietta native, said she looks forward to living in Buford.
"We were really excited when we found out," she said. "We love it here. It's all about small towns for us."
Like their parents, the kids are enjoying the home. The television blasted a children's show Tuesday afternoon, while brother and sister ran laps around the living room playing tag.
"It's big," said Camden, 7, eyebrows raised. "And my mom's room is really, really big."
His sister, Gabrielle, 8, agreed. "I love it," she said. "The kitchen is pretty cool."
Nina Rodriguez said the family is not alone in their happiness. As vice president with Bank of America's property donation program, she's assisted in the donation of 20 similar properties.
"It's basically a free home," Rodriguez said. "They're responsible only for property taxes and homeowner's insurance. It's something that Bank of America is committed to. We want to support our injured veterans."
Lister's wasn't the only event on Tuesday.
Representatives with Bank of America also stopped at the new Buford home of Brandy Oakes and her family. She is the wife of the late Sgt. Curtis Oakes, who was killed in action on Nov. 29, 2010.
Oakes died along with five other soldiers during a rogue attack by an Afghan Police officer on a training mission. His widow was there to thank Bank of America and the Foundation for the donation.
The Military Warriors Support Foundation works with financial institutions like Bank of America to support its Homes 4 Wounded Heroes Program. Injured military personnel may apply.
Lister, for one, said he was humbled by the donation. "We were getting to a point for a while when we didn't know how we were going to make it from month to month, and that's about the time this opportunity opened up," Lister said.
He said the family admittedly "doesn't know much yet about Gwinnett County, but we're going to love living here. It's our first real home ever. It's hard to even grasp."