It's a home for a hero.

It's a home for a hero.

And for U.S. Army veteran Daniel Matheson, it's much more.

"It's a fresh, new start in this house," he said last week as he, his wife, Brandy, and their children, 18-year-old Danny and 15-year-old Hailey, surveyed their new Canal Winchester home in disbelief.

"I never thought anything like this could happen to us," Matheson said.

The twice-injured veteran was moved to tears as he entered the beautiful, newly renovated Canal Winchester home Dec. 15. The house was offered mortgage-free to his family by Building Homes for Heroes, a national nonprofit organization. The New York-based group builds and renovates homes and gives them to wounded or disabled veterans to help them build stable civilian lives.

The Mathesons have been living in Hamilton Township but began moving into their new home Dec. 16.

Matheson enlisted in the Army shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, continuing a family tradition of military service dating to the Civil War, he said.

The recipient of two Purple Hearts suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. His eight years of military service, in which he rose to the rank of staff sergeant, included two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

A bomb explosion in 2005 and a misfire blast in 2010 left him with a traumatic brain injury, nerve damage and hearing loss, among other injuries.

The Matheson family's house is the first in Ohio to be donated by Building Homes for Heroes and the organization's 101st overall.

The group started in 2006 to raise money and build just one veteran a home, said Chad Gottlieb, national director of construction development. It has expanded to 29 states. Only veterans injured after Sept. 11, 2001, who do not own a home are eligible.

"Our wounded veterans made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, our freedom," Gottlieb said. "This is the least we can do for them."

JPMorgan Chase & Co., a corporate sponsor, donates many foreclosed homes to be renovated and given away, including the one the Matheson family is moving into.

Building Homes for Heroes representatives joined family members and volunteers from Chase to decorate the house with Christmas lights, American flags and a massive "welcome home" banner before Daniel Matheson arrived with his wife and kids. A roomful of relatives surprised the family with cheers as they walked through the front door.

Renovations remain to be done to the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home, but the nonprofit group wanted to ensure that the family was able to move in before Christmas. Their other early holiday gifts included a new television, washer and dryer and a Christmas tree with all the trimmings.

"We feel so blessed," Daniel Matheson said. "This kind of thing just doesn't happen to people. It's absolutely surreal. Amazing."

For more information or to donate, visit buildinghomesforheroes.org.

awidmanneese@dispatch.com

@AlissaWidman