Navy veteran, 88, whose Waco home burned last year getting new one, mortgage-free

A US Navy veteran and his wife in Waco will soon have completed a new home with no mortgages on property the couple owns.

vet home

U.S. Navy veteran Harold Lincoln, 88, and his wife Mary, 81, admire the construction and support notes at a new home under construction on the site of a home on 24th Street on Friday where they lived for 47 years and raised their family. Operation Final Home, in partnership with HEB Operation Appreciation and BAM Builders, is providing the new Custom Home to replace the original that was damaged by fire last year.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune Herald

Harold Lincoln, 88, served in the US Navy from April 1955 to December 1957 and has several service-related disabilities. He and his wife Mary, 81, lived in their own home on the 500 block of 24th Street in Waco for 47 years until a fire nearly destroyed it in May 2021.

Operation Final Home, in partnership with BAM Builders and HEB Operation Appreciation, builds a brand new home on the same site at no cost to Lincoln and his family. BAM Builders framed the house and built the exterior walls and roof. It should be ready for occupancy early next year.

On this Veterans Day, the partners who built the home, subcontractors, and friends, family, and supporters of the Lincolns were invited to write notes of love and encouragement to affix to the structural wood inside the home.

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Harold and Mary Lincoln visited the house to review the progress of construction and found the notes a pleasant surprise. The couple smiled in gratitude and amazement at the progress on their home and the displays of love.

“This is fantastic,” Mary Lincoln said on Friday. “Just feeling like I’m so looking forward to everything and seeing the (outside) walls being put up.”

She said that if she and her husband could move into the house around the holiday season, the first dish she would prepare was turkey and candied yam dressing.

“Our kids love the candied yams,” said Mary Lincoln. “They’re expecting the yams.”

Harold Lincoln said Friday that he served in the US Navy in peacetime.

“I served in a Navy flying squadron called VP-17,” Lincoln said. “We were based in Washington State and spent some time in Okinawa, Japan.”

Lincoln proudly said he’d never actually set foot on a real Navy ship.

“The only ship I’ve ever been on was the dummy ship during boat training in San Diego,” Lincoln said.

Navy veterans of that era refer to their initial training when they first join the Navy as “boot training,” now commonly referred to as “boot camp.”

Harold Lincoln’s service-related disabilities include hearing loss, tinnitus and a skin condition, Operation Final Home said in a statement.

After his naval service, Lincoln went into construction himself and worked his way up to project foreman, the statement said. In the early 1970s, work with his wife took him from Austin to Waco to the house on 24th Street, where they stayed until the previous year’s electrical fire damaged much of the house. They raised six sons and two daughters in this home, the statement said.

The fire forced the couple to move in with a daughter, who uses a wheelchair and doesn’t have enough space to accommodate everyone, the statement said.

After the fire, several local organizations offered support, including contacting Operation Home at Last for possible help.

“At first we thought this would be a home remodeling project,” said David Drew, senior vice president of operations at Operation Final Home, on Friday.

Drew said the nonprofit does home remodeling and mortgage-free construction of new homes for veterans in need and also for first responders in need.

“When we and the builders, Jonathan Barrow and Caitlyn Barrow of BAM Builders, looked at the home and saw the extensive damage, we decided it would be best to demolish the original home and build a new one,” said Drew.

He said the Barrows and their company came to Operation Final Home to build a home for a veteran when supporters of the Lincolns asked the nonprofit for help.

“The layout of this house is very similar to where Harold and Mary lived for nearly 50 years, where they raised their family,” Caitlyn Barrow said Friday. “The fire started in the kitchen.”

According to the statement, the fire completely destroyed two bedrooms and a bathroom, while the smoke damaged plumbing, electrical wiring, fixtures and windows throughout the rest of the original home.

Drew said Mary Lincoln told him at the beginning of the project, when they all first met, that she dreamed of owning a new home.

“She never thought it would come to this,” Drew said of Mary Lincoln.

Caitlyn Barrow said the Lincolns were amazed when the project team told them they would demolish the original home and build a brand new one with no mortgages.

Based in New Braunfels, Operation Final Home was formed in 2005, Drew said. The nonprofit has built or remodeled homes in 32 states, Drew said.

“We completed our 200th project on a home in Irving earlier this year,” said Drew. “Including completed and ongoing projects, we currently have a total of 380.”

According to a company statement released Friday, HEB expresses its commitment to honoring our nation’s heroes throughout the year through HEB Operation Appreciation. The food company supports, honors and provides employment opportunities for military members, veterans and their families, the statement said.

This year, HEB managers and employees will host more than 250 appreciation and outreach events across Texas on Veterans Day, the statement said.

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