There was a popular song during and after the American Civil War which was sung on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” was a song of welcome for soldiers who had fought on both sides of the war. It was a song of welcome for soldiers returning to their hometowns, intent on picking up where they had left off … if they could again.
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” was not sung in Euclid, but its essence was there in the welcoming home of a veteran of the U.S. Army who had served in the war in Afghanistan. Waiting for former Specialist Holden Gibbons was a house which he purchased at a greatly discounted rate.
The program comes out of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Veterans interested in purchasing a home for renovation or a renovated move-in-ready home are eligible for discounts of up to 20 percent of the purchase price. Gibbons was presented the keys to his new home in Euclid. “I came to them with a game plan and told them I would like to purchase a duplex,” said Gibbons. “I’d like to live in the bottom and rent out the top and they said, ‘Okay, that makes sense financially.'”
So a deal was made. The Cuyahoga Land Bank has been making these deals for many months. It received a $100,000 grant from Cuyahoga County last year which the Land Bank matched with a like amount. With the money, the Land Bank is able to offer homes at discount rates for returning U.S. military veterans.
With a veterans’ unit in uniform standing with him and Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik speaking, there was a formal presentation. Gus Frangos, president of the Cuyahoga Land Bank also spoke.
“We wanted to provide housing that would create true wealth so within four or five years, this home would be paid off and the veteran would have equity and it would be affordable during those five years that he’s paying it off,” said Frangos.
The veteran must live on the property as his or her primary residence for at least two years and agree to several points required by the Land Bank. If the veteran does some of the rehab work, the vet can save even more money.
“Primarily, I’m doing the fixtures, which I’m still working on,” beamed Gibbons on a tour of the house. “I’m doing the painting work and I’m doing the floors,” he added, pointing to the hardwood floors of which he was proud.
Gibbons was all smiles as he stood next to a veterans honor guard who applauded his service in the Army and were part of the welcoming ceremony at Gibbon’s new house. Workers were still making repairs on the duplex and they seemed excited to be a part of such a project. At the front door was an American flag, symbolic of the contribution Gibbons made in the military.
It was a fitting tribute on the Memorial Day weekend where a soldier who has come home from war was welcomed with open arms, strong praise from the mayor of the community, and the keys to a new house where the vet can begin building equity.
As the old song lyrics have it, “When Johnny comes marching home again,” there is a refrain. “Hurrah, hurrah.” For former Army Specialist Holden Gibbons and for the Cuyahoga Land Bank: “Hurrah, hurrah.”
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