Wounded veteran gets mortgage-free Dormont house

| Friday, May 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Many soldiers enjoy warm homecomings. Tyler Schell received the keys to his first home.

“I've never been a homeowner. I've always lived in apartments,” Schell, 23, a retired Army specialist, said Thursday as he surveyed the empty living room of his newly renovated Dormont house. “It's hard to believe it is happening until you wake up here a couple of times.”

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage partnered with Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation to provide Schell the mortgage-free house on McFarland Road through the Homes 4 Wounded Heroes program, which helps military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“They approached us about the program, and we signed up,” said Tyler Smith, Wells Fargo's vice president of REO Community Development in Des Moines.

Since the partnership began in 2011, Wells Fargo has donated 28 bank-owned properties to wounded veterans nationwide. The foundation has awarded more than 300 homes.

Schell's is the first house donated in Pennsylvania.

Allegheny County tax records value Schell's two-bedroom Cape Cod home at $80,200. Wells Fargo paid almost $40,000 for repairs and upgrades, Smith said, including a remodeled kitchen, new boiler, paint and carpeting.

Schell will be responsible for paying property taxes and home insurance, Smith said. Military Warriors will turn over the deed in three years, per program policy.

Schell plans to move in next week when his possessions arrive from San Antonio. The Sharon native has lived there since coming stateside with wounds from a roadside bomb that exploded in September 2009 in Wardak province, Afghanistan. Thirty percent of Schell's body was burned when he was trapped in a burning vehicle.

Another explosion injured his brother, Guy, 36 hours later in the same province.

They deployed to Afghanistan together in January 2009 as part of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division.

Both received Purple Hearts for their combat injuries and recognition by Homes 4 Wounded Heroes.

Guy Schell's home will be in West Palm Beach, Fla., his wife's hometown.

“He's getting a place and truly deserves it. But I thought there was no way we would both get it,” said Guy Schell Jr., 27. “I cannot say enough how much they've helped us out. They've done us a great deed.”

Tyler Schell plans to pursue an education in architecture at a Pittsburgh-area university.

“It's something you never expect to happen to you, but it does,” Schell said of the gift. “It's just hard to come up with words, really.”

Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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