FORT RILEY, Kansas (Army News Service, June 21, 2007) - The "Welcome Home to Heroes Foundation" made a Fort Riley Soldier's dream come true yesterday by handing him the keys to a new home.

The foundation made a $5,000 down payment on a 1,700-square town home built by American Dream Development for Sgt. Michael Guardiolo.

This is the first time in almost eight years of military service that his Family has a place to call "home," said Sgt. Guardiolo, a 31-year-old electronic repair technician who, with his wife, Cheryl, has three children under the age of six.

"Now I feel like I'm building a future for myself and my Family. It's comforting to know that I am providing for them in the long term, as opposed to just renting or being in base housing," he said. "We're going to earn equity now, instead of throwing away our money for housing."

That may sound obvious to anyone who is buying their first home, but home ownership has been elusive for many military Families. In the past, frequent moves often discouraged servicemembers from purchasing homes. But more Soldiers are joining the ranks of homeowners now that the Army is allowing them to remain at installations longer.

Local developer Jeff Burton started the Welcome Home to Heroes Foundation to give a boost to servicemembers who might have trouble purchasing their first home. The foundation raises money toward their down payment through donations and fundraisers.

"I love this mission - building homes for Soldiers and helping them buy that first home to build equity for their future," said Mr. Burton, a military veteran who founded American Dream Homes two years ago. "We're what you might call authentic patriots. These people who make sacrifices for our country deserve a slice of the American dream," he said.

Mr. Burton's goal is to build affordable, high-quality housing for working families. Through techniques learned from his experience at large national builders, his company builds new homes under the market price at about $144,000 for a base model four-bedroom home.

Sgt. Guardiolo's new home is located at The Village at Freedom Place. It includes a retail shopping area, community pool and such amenities as a playground. A homeowners association takes care of landscaping and outdoor maintenance - a plus for military personnel who can be away from home for months.

"It's a huge asset to know my wife doesn't have to mow the lawn or fix anything major while she's taking care of three kids and I'm not around," Sgt. Guardiola said. "I don't have to worry about that.

"This is my fifth duty station in eight years. I see this as giving my Family something more permanent. Even if I have to move, we plan to keep this place," he said. "It's a place we can always come back to, something to hold on to besides an old photograph."