It's been quite a struggle for one Jacksonville single mom trying to balance taking care of her son and going to school after she was just discharged from the military. But now she has one less thing to worry about -- a new home.
Sgt. Jessica Blow was called to the front of a crowd Wednesday thinking she was a finalist for a mortgage-free Arlington home.
She soon realized she was the only finalist.
Her 8-year-old son Camron turned the lock on their new home and opened the door to more surprises -- a beautifully furnished and renovated home, welcomed by Blow's friend Stephanie, who she served with in Korea.
They walked around. Camron quickly claimed his room, tore through presents perfectly wrapped on a race car bed, and bounced on his new swing.
Then Blow explored the master bedroom and tried out her new bed.
They made their way through the rest of the house to the backyard, greeted by an applause.
"I'm just filled with joy," Blow said.
Crying came later after it sunk it for Blow, who calls this a huge blessing. Her 11 years of service in the Army included two tours in Iraq, where she got glass in her eye and broke her leg.
"I can't believe that somebody like me was blessed with something like this, but I am so thankful, so thankful," Blow said.
After about 800 hours of volunteer work made possible by HomeStrong USA and Bank of America, the 1950s New Haven Road home was transformed.
"It's our little piece of giving back to those who gave so much for our country," said John Berens, Bank of America senior vice president.
"Every veteran that we've helped has been so selfless," said Jed Davis, CEO of HomeStrong USA. "They don't think that they even deserve it. Their answer to us is there's someone who needs it more than me. So our answer back is, that's why you deserve it, because you're so selfless."
HomeStrong USA and Bank of America give away a home to a veteran every couple of months, chosen through a lengthy review process.
"I kept receiving phone calls that I needed to do this or I needed to fill out this paperwork, and they wanted to know this, and I'm like, 'This is really mean if I didn't win,'" Blow said.
It was worth it to now be home sweet home.
"I think this is the best house ever," Camron said.
He then told his mom there's just one more thing that would make his life complete: a dog in the backyard.