Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jacinto Bernardo asked a fellow Marine to keep an eye on his newly purchased fixer-upper house while he was stationed in Japan, but he never could have imagined the impact of that fateful decision.
Bernardo, a newly retired combat veteran who served 21 years in the Marine Corps, bought the home in January and it was in need of a lot of work.
“We chose it because it was the only thing we can afford, sir,” his wife Julie Bernardo told the local ABC affiliate KGO.
The home fell into the caring hands of Marine buddy Jeremy Epperson while the Bernardo family was overseas, and he decided they deserved better.
So he recruited volunteers and scraped together the financial resources to put $70,000 worth of work into the house — an effort he is calling “Homecoming Heroes.”
“Twenty one years in the Marine Corps, retiring, you don’t deserve to come back to a house where you have to spend a lot of your savings and time fixing it up,” Epperson said.
Amid lots of pomp and circumstance, Bernardo returned home Tuesday to the surprise of a lifetime.
“We’re proud of our service,” Bernardo said as emotion got the better of him. “And you know, those guys who didn’t make it back, and those guys that didn’t make it back in one piece, they deserve this not me.”
“Your best friend and your new community begs to differ,” said KGO reporter Wayne Freedman.
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