Lawton’s Tomas Garcia and family are caught by surprise at the annual Lawton Rangers Rodeo.
Lawton’s Tomas Garcia and family are caught by surprise at the annual Lawton Rangers Rodeo.
Builder Colin Hawkins teams with Operation FINALLY HOME to reward military hero with presentation of new family home

LAWTON — There was little warning of what was to come for retired U.S. Army Sgt. Tomas Garcia and his family as they attended the annual Lawton Rangers Rodeo this past August.

Garcia was there to accept a $1,000 donation on behalf of the Military Order of the Purple Heart veterans’ organization during a brief ceremony between events.

Then the unexpected happened. 

Garcia, his wife Candace, and their two daughters were told they had been selected to receive a mortgage-free, custom-built home that is part of a national not-for-profit initiative called Operation FINALLY HOME. 
The Lawton home was built in conjunction with two local sponsors, Hawkins Custom Homes and City National Bank.

“We gave the home to him at the Lawton Rangers Rodeo in the middle of the rodeo grounds,” said Colin Hawkins, owner of Hawkins Custom Homes, which built the special home for the Garcia family.

“It was quite an emotional deal for everybody,” Hawkins said. “He was very surprised. We gave them a $1,000 donation, and that’s what they thought they were there to receive.”

A photo published in the Lawton Constitution newspaper shows all four Garcia family members with their hands to their faces in surprise at the moment of the announcement.

“I was in total shock,” Garcia said of the moment. “I was shocked, overwhelmed, happy; it’s hard to put into words. It was all surreal and even today it’s hard to believe that it could happen.”

The Lawton home is the second Oklahoma home built by Operation FINALLY HOME, said Ronnie Lyles, project manager for the organization. The land for the Garcia home in Lawton’s Dove Creek Addition was donated by City National Bank, and Hawkins Custom Homes was selected as builder.

The Garcias’ new home was move-in ready by the end of January, Hawkins said.

Tomas Garcia is a Connecticut native who enlisted in the Army in 2001. During his second deployment in Iraq in March 2006, he was severely injured on a convoy transport when three improvised explosive devices (IED) were detonated in an ambush. Garcia was hit in the forehead with a bullet that fractured his skull and injured his best friend, a fellow soldier. 

After his honorable discharge in 2007, Garcia continued to suffer from debilitating health conditions as a result of the wounds suffered in the attack. He was awarded a Purple Heart, Army Accommodation with Valor, Combat Action Badge, National Defense Service Medal and Iraq Campaign Medal for his service.

Today, Garcia works as a Training, Aids, Devices, Simulators and Simulations (TADSS) instructor for the Department of the Army. He is also involved in the veteran community as a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and The Foundation for Exceptional Warriors. In 2013, he was awarded the Patriot of the Year Award from both his local MOPH chapter as well as the State of Oklahoma Department MOPH.

Operation FINALLY HOME was established in 2005 as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that provides custom-build, mortgage free homes to America’s military heroes and the widows of the fallen. It partners with corporate sponsors, builder associations, builders, developers, individual contributors and volunteers to help America’s military heroes and their families transition to the home front.

“I think it’s an amazing program,” Garcia said. “It’s a great thing they are doing for our veterans and our war heroes. There’s no way we could pay back what they are doing, the Foundation, the builders and the banks, everybody involved. We are really blessed and humbled to receive this gift.”