U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Porter originally moved with his wife Cynthia to Southern California for an engineering job that he expected to be the last chapter of his civilian career.
Nearly a decade later, though, he was feeling trapped by the ever-increasing cost of living.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to retire,” said Mark.
The couple desired to move to Henderson, Nevada, where Cynthia’s daughter lived with her family. However, all the senior housing communities they found had wait lists of two or three years.
“Then, while just scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post about Operation Homefront,” said Cynthia. “When I clicked and saw that they had a home available in Henderson, I was speechless.”
The Porters are the latest participants in Operation Homefront’s “Homes on the Homefront” program in which the nonprofit collaborates with partners to donate mortgage-free homes to veterans in need. U.S. Bank was a natural partner as the bank has a similar program, “Housing Opportunities after Military Engagement” (H.O.M.E.), through which it has donated 18 homes to veterans since 2013.
“We are overwhelmed with emotions and thankful beyond words,” said Mark. “You have no idea of the blessing it is for something like this to come along. This is our forever home – this is it.”
“It is a privilege to be able to give back to those who have given so much to our country,” said U.S. Bank Las Vegas Market President Clark Wood. “On behalf of our 550 employees in and around Las Vegas, I would like to welcome Mark and Cynthia to their new home and community.”
In addition to H.O.M.E., U.S. Bank has national home repair and car donation programs for veterans in need as well. In fact, last week the bank donated a vehicle to medically retired U.S. Army veteran Jared Stacey and his family (coincidentally, also in Las Vegas).
Located just several miles away from family, the one-bedroom plus den, two-bathroom home is part of a senior living community. When talking through the home specs, Mark made a special note of the garage and his plans to put in a work bench.
“I’ve always been a tinkerer,” he smiled.
He said he has been taking things apart and putting them back together for as long as he can remember. And other than the family lawn mower when he was a kid, he has always been able to put them back together.
His natural mind for mechanics, interest in airplanes and family legacy of military service led Mark to enlist in the Air Force out of high school in 1975. He went on serve 17 years, primarily in mechanical roles, including an assignment to a NATO base in Germany from 1978 to 1981 to teach technicians how to properly equip airplanes for missions.
“With NATO, our motto was ‘to guard freedom,’” he said. “It was a no-nonsense job and an experience that really created a sense of responsibility that made us grow up fast.”
Mark grew into leadership roles in the years that followed, spending time as an instructor for new airplane technicians in the Air Force. In that position, he developed a training course for missile launchers that not only earned him an achievement medal but is also still used today.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1992, Mark enrolled at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri, to study computer-aided design. Upon graduation, he went on to work as an engineer at a print manufacturing firm for more than a decade. It was during that time that he met Cynthia.
Now that the couple has moved from California to Nevada and Mark is able to retire, Cynthia said they are excited to revisit an activity that they enjoyed on their first date – bird watching.
This week, however, their new yard was full of much more than birds. The pair was welcomed into their home by dozens of family members, friends, neighbors and leaders from U.S. Bank and Operation Homefront at a key ceremony on Sept. 12.
Mark is already getting to know fellow veterans in the community through the American Legion. Although having served during three distinct eras in terms of conflict – Vietnam, Cold and Gulf – he speaks most about the brotherhood that bonds together those who have served.
“I love being around these guys, just playing darts at the Legion,” he said. “Once you take the oath, you share a sense of duty and your lives are forever changed.”
Thinking back, Mark described the day he took that oath as one of the most emotional events in his life.
Accepting the keys to his forever home in a forever community, he added, is another one.
Written by Pat Swanson of U.S. Bank. From left to right in the featured photo above, U.S. Bank employees Hans Getty, Len McMorrow, Morris Jackson II, Jenny Palmberg and Clark Wood are pictured with Cynthia and Mark Porter in the middle. Visit proudtoserve.usbank.com to learn more about how the bank supports veterans as employees, customers and in the community.