Injured Iraq veteran awarded mortgage-free home in Shoreview

Tom Jacobson and his girlfriend, Cassie Hunt, look out a backdoor of his house at his backyard and the parkland behind it. “There's no more highway in back,” said Jacobson, who will be moving into his new house from an apartment in the Prospect Park neighborhood in Minneapolis. (Mike Munzenrider/Bulletin)

Muffie Gabler, a community development manager at Wells Fargo, about to present the keys to the house to Jacobson and Hunt. (Mike Munzenrider/Bulletin)

The Humvee in which Jacobson road after it was pulled from a canal, following the IED attack in 2007. (photo courtesy of Tom Jacobson)

Jacobson during recovery at Naval Medical Center San Diego. (photo courtesy of Tom Jacobson)

Retired Lance Corporal Tom Jacobson, a Marine Corps veteran who was injured while serving in Iraq in 2007, received a mortgage-free home in Shoreview from Wells Fargo and the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF) on Wednesday, April 23.

"It'll be nice to get into a different place," said Jacobson, who was living with three siblings in a Minneapolis apartment, moments before stepping into his new home for the first time.

The split-level, three bedroom house with a two-car garage was awarded to Jacobson through MWSF's Homes4WoundedHeros program, to which Wells Fargo donates homes. This is the second home donation in Minnesota. Since 2013, Wells Fargo has donated 86 homes across the country, worth more than $11 million.

Wells Fargo donates homes which it acquires through foreclosure, renovating them and updating them.

Muffie Gabler, senior vice president of government and community relations at Wells Fargo, said the bank works closely with MWSF to find veterans and ensure that once they're in a donated home, they have continued support.

"It's not just handing a house over and saying 'good luck,'" Gabler said.

Jacobson, a 26-year-old Little Falls native, arrived in Iraq in July of 2007, nearly a year after he enlisted in the Marines, taking a lead from his father and grandfather, both of whom served in the military. Beyond family tradition, Jacobson said his enlistment was a means of self-improvement; he described himself as a "rotten kid."

"I did it for myself, to better my life," he explained.

On August 25, 2007, Jacobson took part in a patrol going out after snipers; he was the turret gunner in the third Humvee out of a line of four.

An improvised explosive device hit Jacobson's Humvee and tossed him out of the turret, throwing the vehicle into a nearby canal. The driver was killed and two others were injured in the attack, which happened on Jacobson's 20th birthday.

Jacobson said he stayed conscious during the attack and after, because "morphine is good stuff," and finally passed out in the hospital. His injuries were extensive: he suffered second-degree burns to his face, brain damage, hearing loss, shattered bones in his legs and a shattered knee cap, along with one of his heels, which, as he said, was turned to "dust."

Jacobson recovered at Naval Medical Center San Diego, informally called Balboa Hospital, and after some 15 surgeries and lots of time, he said he is starting to get back to normal, though he still experiences post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jacobson received a Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon and was medically retired in October 2009.

"It's been a long road. Five years out, I can run now with only a little bit of pain," he said.

"They put Humpty Dumpty back together."

Surveying his new home after a brief key presentation, in which he thanked all in attendance including Wells Fargo and MWSF, Jacobson began plotting new beginnings in his new home.

Out a back door, he viewed his yard and the parkland behind, ample space for his dogs to run. In the basement, which has a built-in bar, Jacobson has plans for beer brewing and a place to display his military mementoes, items from Iraq and his recovery at Balboa.

Currently finishing up his first year at Saint Paul College, Jacobson said he plans to transfer to the University of Minnesota and would like to teach history, either ancient or American, to either elementary or college students.

He said he's not sure yet.

Jacobson doesn't plan on taking any summer classes and wants to plant a garden at his new home after he moves into it with his girlfriend, Cassie Hunt, in May. Following a stint with a catering company, he says he just landed a job as a cook at St. Paul's Monastery and plans to work all summer.

"It was a shitty way to get here," Jacobson, who promised to try not to swear, said, adding that he felt blessed--and thankful--to be there.

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7824.


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