Jacob Williams (left, in blue shirt), his wife and family accept the ceremonial home key in Fortuna on Friday. | Photo by Gillen Tener Martin.

On Friday morning, retired U.S. Army Private First-Class Jacob Williams and his wife Meredith unlocked their new – free – home in Fortuna for the first time. 

Holding one of his two young sons on his hip, Williams said the house marked a “monumental moment” that would change the course of the family’s life. 

The home was gifted to Williams through the Military Warriors Support Foundation’s (MWSF) Home4WoundedHeroes program in collaboration with Wells Fargo, a partnership that has provided more than 400 “mortgage-free” homes to wounded veterans across all 50 states. MWSF has donated 500 more homes through other partnerships – providing each recipient with three years of financial mentoring after move-in to help them manage the property taxes, insurance and maintenance that homeownership entails.

The Williamses learned that they were selected for a home on former Arkansas Governor and two-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s TV show (Huckabee) in February.

The Williamses on Huckabee in February. | Photo via Military Warriors Support Foundation.


“It was like a burden had been lifted,” Williams told the Outpost, explaining that the family had been attempting California homeownership through other avenues and programs, but kept running up against “closed doors.”

Williams joined the military in 2006, serving as an airborne infantryman with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Ft. Richardson, Alaska. Less than a year later, in Iraq, a roadside bomb went off next to his convoy, injuring his neck and leading to the loss of his right hand. It was his 20th birthday. 

Williams, who has received a Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, among other honors, said he has no regrets.

“Losing a hand was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me,” he said, adding that he uses the two degrees he has received in theology since to counsel other veterans, first responders and families.

The steady increase of home prices since the 1960s has added to the unique set of challenges that veterans – and especially wounded vets – face in securing housing upon returning from service. 

“Homeownership and affordability is such a critical factor right now; it’s really difficult for wounded military veterans given some of their circumstances,” said Kären Woodruff, senior vice president of community relations at Wells Fargo, explaining that many experience periods during which they are unable to work.  

Home prices on the North Coast have fallen since reaching record highs in 2020 and 2021 (Fortuna, Arcata, Eureka and McKinleyville were all included in a survey of California cities “where home prices are dropping significantly” last month), but only six of the 37 homes for sale in Fortuna this week were listed at or below $400,000, according to Fortuna Community Development Director Shari Meads.

“While these prices are significantly below what is found in other parts of California, the Humboldt County economy still makes them unattainable for many,” Meads wrote the Outpost via email.

The Williamses first visited Humboldt from their Redlands, Calif., home in April, and the move-in on Friday was the family’s second time seeing the city they now call home.

Woodruff explained that the Homes4Heroes program works by matching the needs of vets and their families with communities in which bank-owned homes (foreclosures) become available.

“We really want the veteran and their family to be successful in that community,” she said.

Speaking to the crowd assembled to welcome the family, which included Second District Humboldt County Supervisor Michelle Bushnell and Field Representative in Congressman Jared Huffman’s Eureka office Andrew Cairns, Williams said that he and his wife are not only here because of the home they were given, but also because of what they can give.

“There’s work to be done in this community,” he said, “Our lives have been changed, and we hope to impact and change other people’s lives.”

Williams was one of two veterans to receive a mortgage-free home from MWSF and Wells Fargo this Flag Day, the other provided in Littleton, NC.

The Military Warriors Support Foundation Homes4WoundedHeroes program is open to veterans wounded in either combat or training and unmarried Gold Star spouses whose partner was killed in action. Applicants must be honorably retired (or separated) from the military, must not have a current mortgage, and must intend to use the home as a primary residence.