Operation Finally Home - Groundbreaking-The Woodlands Hills
HOUSTON, TX -- U.S. Army SGT Joanna Ellenbeck and her family joined representatives from Operation Finally Home along with several project sponsors to celebrate a special groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the family’s future home on August 11.
During the groundbreaking event, neighbors, community members and others joined Operation Finally Home, the Houston Texans as well as representatives from Century Communities, The Howard Hughes Corporation® and Greater Houston Builders Association to celebrate the start of this new chapter in Ellenbeck’s life.
Ellenbeck and her daughter were escorted to the homesite by the Patriot Guard Riders, and the groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting followed. Texans Cheerleaders, TORO and Texans Legend, Steve McKinney, also attended and celebrated with the Ellenbeck family.
Steve Sams, Senior Vice President, Master Planned Communities, Residential for The Howard Hughes Corporation served as master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking. “It is our privilege to partner with Operation Finally Home, Century Communities, Greater Houston Builders Association, the Houston Texans and many other organizations to build a new home for U.S. Army Sgt. Ellenbeck and her daughter in The Woodlands Hills,” stated Sams. “We have participated in 11 new homes for deserving veterans in The Woodlands, Bridgeland and The Woodlands Hills through the years, and the last four of these have been through our relationship with Operation Finally Home including this new home for Sgt. Ellenbeck.”
Just before Christmas last year, Ellenbeck was surprised by the news that she and her daughter would be moving into a custom-built, mortgage-free home built by Century Communities on a lot donated by The Howard Hughes Corporation in The Woodlands Hills. The surprise took place during the Houston Texans game on Sunday, Dec. 18, at NRG Stadium (video here).
Ellenbeck thought she was being recognized as the Texans’ Salute to Service honoree of the game. However, at the end of the Salute to Service feature, the announcer shared even more exciting news – Ellenbeck and her family were receiving a custom built, mortgage-free home on behalf of Operation Finally Home!
About U.S. Army Sgt. Joanna Ellenbeck | Growing up in a family with a long history of military service, U.S. Army Sgt. Joanna Ellenbeck always knew she was destined to serve her country. Ellenbeck’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father all served in the armed forces, a lineage that stretches back to World War II.
Ellenbeck enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 2, 2002, shortly after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. She served 8 eight years and six months, including three combat deployments: one to Afghanistan and two to Iraq. Serving with the 25th Infantry Division, Ellenbeck worked as an avionics mechanic throughout her military career, repairing Black Hawks, Chinooks and Kiowa 58 helicopters.
During her three deployments, Ellenbeck began to understand the harsh realities of war. During her first deployment in 2004, Ellenbeck was assigned to complete a two-week guard detail because the unit was low on troops. During this time, a suspicious truck approached the perimeter, and Ellenbeck and a fellow service member investigated. They discovered a wounded man hidden in the bed of the truck, suffering from the effects of a bomb detonation. Ellenbeck began to render first aid, during which the man repeatedly struck her. Later interrogations revealed the man was a terrorist sent to detonate a bomb and kill American troops.
Ellenbeck carries visible and invisible scars from her service. She suffered a debilitating back injury during her 2004 deployment. Additionally, she suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, tinnitus, a sciatic nerve disorder, sensory deficits in both lower legs and knee pain. Ellenbeck’s doctors believe her service-related injuries will require her to use a wheelchair in the future.
For her service, Ellenbeck has been awarded multiple awards and recognition. These include an Iraq Campaign medal with five stars, four Army Commendation Medals, two Meritorious Unit Commendations and two Army Good Conduct Medals, in addition to a National Defense Service Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, among others. She was honorably discharged in 2010.
Currently living in Arizona, Ellenbeck plans to move to Houston to be closer to family and friends and provide her young daughter with the medical, therapeutic, and educational support she needs. Ellenbeck’s daughter, who was born blind and has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair. In their free time, Ellenbeck and her daughter enjoy horseback riding.