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STEPHENVILLE (December 16, 2015) — Apparently there are real-life superheroes right here. And calling Erath County Service Officer Tamara Barker and local DAV Commander Harry Woodward is like calling the Justice League or S.H.I.E.L.D. because when you call, they leap into action.
Just ask the Terriquez family. Nothing more proves it than the happy holiday season they will be spending this year – the first of many in Stephenville.
Imagine spending years fighting overseas to protect your home only to return stateside, struggle to readapt to life, then lose the house your family lives in. That was the case for this family until some hard working, quick-acting Erath County residents stepped in to help.
“I mean, I guess, for me, that was rock bottom, that was rough,” Sgt. First Class, Danny Terriquez said Wednesday afternoon, fresh off work from his new job at Riggs Welding Supply, of learning his family could be homeless so soon after returning from service overseas. “When you go on so many tours like I did, you start to lose a part of yourself each time, and coming back to deal with that… It’s a lot and when we had nothing, these people picked up all the pieces and held us together more than they’ll ever know.”
Danny has spent 16 years in the military, serving active duty as an infantryman in the United States Army and, since 2007, as a member of the Army National Guard. The last four of his seven tours were done as a reservist. But Danny isn’t the only member of the Terriquez family who served. His wife, Amanda, spent three and a half years in the Army as well.
“I’ve been just completely amazed at the generosity of the people in this community. I’ve really been blown away,” Amanda said, fighting back tears. “Especially those involved in the DAV and Veterans Services. Without Veronica, Harry and Tami, I don’t know what we would have done.”
According to Woodward, it all began when Barker received a call from a veteran’s wife in Florida. They had family in the area and Danny had lived in Dublin for a time, but his military service took him elsewhere and, eventually, to Florida.
He’s earned three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star. Now, with 16 years and seven combat tours behind him, Danny requested not to return to combat duty and was placed back on reserve.
But being placed on reserve means losing your housing. Wanting to return home to Erath County, the family of five called Barker for help.
“When I spoke to Amanda, I didn’t know exactly what we were going to do, but I had no doubt we would make it happen for them,” Barker recalled. “So I didn’t hesitate, I just told them, get here and we will make it work, we will find you somewhere. I’m kind of new to Stephenville still, so I called the one woman I knew could help – Veronica. She got to work and within a few days we had a plan.”
Teaming up with the Woodwards and Disabled American Veterans Chapter 234 of Stephenville, Barker was able to secure temporary housing while a veterans service program out of DFW helped with permanent housing. However, there was a miscommunication with the service and they dropped the ball, Woodward said, so the DAV team went into a full-court press.
“We didn’t let that stop us, we got moving and got the word out,” the commander said. “The people of Erath County did the rest. They came forward with absolutely everything this family needed – permanent housing, coats for the Texas winter, winter clothing, household goods, furniture and even stuff for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
It wasn’t just one or two either. Business owners and community members stepped up to help the family when they heard. Bill Lambert, a fellow veteran who volunteers at the DAV, offered his rent house in Huckabay rent free until December so the family had time to get settled. Too many community members to name came forward with everything from clothes for the children to cash donations enough to cover December and January rent for the family. Then the Greer family, who opened Greer’s Cafe in downtown Stephenville, heard about the situation and offered a Christmas party for the family complete with Christmas dinner and gifts from other community members.
“It really is amazing how the people of this community have come out to help this family,” said Barker.
Veronica just laughs.
“Not really,” she said. “I mean, it is wonderful, but I’m in no way surprised. The people of Erath County have always stepped up and gone above and beyond for those who truly need it, especially veterans. People here have really good hearts and generous spirits. Besides, I just know who to call.”
Those calls did all the good for the Terriquez family, who traveled several days just to reach Erath County. There was car trouble, then an accident just ahead of them. And, like he usually does when a dangerous situation was presented to him, Danny jumped into action.
“There was an accident and the driver was trapped,” he recalled. “The rescue crews weren’t anywhere around and he needed out of there. So, I just busted the windshield and pulled him out through it. At some point, I busted up my finger and had to go to the hospital. There were delays, yeah, but we got here, together and safe. I felt like if we could just get here, we’d be okay.”
And they were.
And they will continue to be, Danny says.
“For the first time in my entire life, I feel like I’m home. Like these people understand me and what I’ve been through and accept me and my family and support us. I’m glad we’re here and I’m not going anywhere,” Danny said, clearing his throat hard with a smile. “I mean, would I serve again if they needed me? Of course I would, in a heartbeat, but this is my family’s home now and we’re so excited to settle here.”
Danny, who was happily surprised with the Woodwards’ and Barker’s willingness to help his family, said he is telling anyone who will listen about Stephenville, Erath County and the veterans’ services programs here.
“I’m telling all my friends who just got out or who are about to get out, or even those who are just getting back and having trouble like I was about this place and these people,” Danny said. “I’ve reconnected with old friends, we’re making new ones and I’m even meeting people we don’t know who know who I am in the store!”
Danny and Amanda say they are adapting to country life and starting to really enjoy settling into their home and getting their son, Adien, 8, enrolled in Huckabay ISD. Amanda is a stay-at-home mom and spends a lot of her time with the couple’s two daughters – Daniela, 4, and Aliyah, 3. And now, they plan to focus on their family and helping others like they were helped.
“These people right here are the very best thing that has happened to us,” Amanda said. “He’s a tough guy but the generosity of this community has made even Danny cry, and me smile until my cheeks are sore. We are so grateful for everything that’s been done for us. We can’t say thank you enough for finally giving us a house and welcoming us home.”