On this eve of Independence Day, a local veteran got quite the gift to honor his service and sacrifice.
Flag-waving members of the Military Warriors Support Foundation, along with a representative of Bank of America. turned over keys to a brand new house to USMC Corporal Michael Leslie. It comes mortgage free.
Corporal Leslie joined the Marines while he was still in high school, serving three years, mostly in Iraq. That's where an IED went off during a nighttime mission, severely wounding the Marine. He received the Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon for his service.
Leslie, now retired and working toward a career in law enforcement, was overwhelmed by the show of support from his fellow soldiers and Marines.
"I feel like I'm a son to them; it's a brotherhood," Leslie said. "For these older guys to be here to support me, a lot of them went through the same thing I went through, so they understand. It's great."
And he was almost speechless after Crystal Prine of Bank of America handed him the keys.
"No words can describe," he said. "I really appreciate all of this. I really do."
There were a lot of smiles as Leslie and his fiancée, Danielle Botvidson, toured their new house, which is complete with pictures of the couple.
"It's actually our favorite picture," Leslie said of one. "That was when the Lightning played the first round of the playoffs. We took that together. That's a really special moment for us together."
Botvidson is Leslie's high school sweetheart. She, too, was in awe of the house and the efforts of so many.
"The last thing I expected was something as amazing as this," she said. "They work so hard, and they've worked so hard for so many veterans."
Bank of America has partnered with several non-profits to provide homes for military veterans. This was the third house awarded this week in Central Florida with Military Warriors Support Foundation. To date, Bank of America has donated more than 240 homes in Florida to veterans through partnerships with non-profit organizations that support veterans and their families.
Prine said she was moved by today's events.
"I am so appreciative that anyone would put their life on the line for our country. I'm privileged and honored to be chosen to be here to do this," she said.
Leslie works tomorrow, but the couple plans to celebrate with a barbecue on Saturday. He said this is a day he'll never forget.
"Especially the 4th of July, having this house, what a perfect day for all these veterans to be out there with me," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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