Building Homes for Heroes donates home to retired Marine, Purple Heart recipient and grandson of Navajo Code Talker

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Dec. 6, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The national nonprofit Building Homes for Heroes gifted a mortgage-free home today to retired Marine Sgt. Dustin Francisco, a Purple Heart recipient and grandson of a Navajo Code Talker, in a spirit of gratitude this holiday season.

Continuing a family legacy of service, Francisco, 39, joined the military in 2004 out of Albuquerque and later was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011 in Afghanistan, his unit was ambushed and struck by a grenade blast that caused a traumatic brain injury and shrapnel wounds. Discharged in 2013, he suffers from chronic PTSD, migraines and tinnitus.

“We are honored to give back to Sgt. Dustin Francisco, a true American hero. His sacrifice and dedication deserve our deepest gratitude, and this home is a small token of our immense appreciation for Dustin and a tribute to the Navajo Code Talkers,” said Andy Pujol, founder and CEO of Building Homes for Heroes.

Bedecked in a holiday theme, the 1,890-square-foot home, donated by JPMorgan Chase to Building Homes for Heroes, was gifted to Francisco, his partner, Kimberlyn Tom, and four children. The home gifting also was supported financially by the organization’s top corporate sponsors, Advance Auto Parts and Lowe’s.

“This represents more than just walls and a roof,” Francisco said. “It’s a symbol of hope, healing and the unwavering support of organizations like Building Homes for Heroes. This is a community that cares about our veterans and their well-being.”

The ceremony came a day before the 82nd anniversary of the surprise Japanese aerial attack on the U.S. Navy base in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, bringing America officially into World War II.

Francisco’s paternal grandfather, Joe Vandever Sr., was a Marine and one of the WWII Navajo Code Talkers, the secret program of Navajo recruits who developed unbreakable Allied messages on troop movements, orders and other vital battlefield communications over telephones and radios. The Navajo language was indecipherable to the Japanese and cited as a key factor in U.S. victories at Iwo Jima, Saipan and several other major battles.

Vandever died in 2020. Francisco’s other late grandfather, Woody Francisco, also was a Purple Heart veteran who served in the Marines in Okinawa.

His mother, June Chavez, community services coordinator of the Navajo Nation’s Smithlake Chapter, and his father, Jerryson Francisco, attended the ceremony. Jerryson, in the role of a shaman, conducted the traditional blessing of the house. One of Building Homes for Heroes’ other home recipients in Arizona, retired Marine Sgt. Nathaniel Bitsui, who served with Francisco, also was present.

Pujol founded the organization after volunteering in search-and-rescue efforts after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Since 2006, the national nonprofit has modified and gifted more than 355 homes, with support from JPMorgan Chase, Advance Auto Parts, Lowe’s, SAIC and other companies.

Building Homes for Heroes
Building Homes for Heroes builds and gifts mortgage-free homes, and completes home modifications, for veterans, emergency first responders and their families, and provides further services along their road to recovery to help them live a promising and fulfilling life ahead. The organization reached a 95.5% program rating in 2022, the 12th straight year earning a program rating of at least 93%. It also received a perfect 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for seven straight years, including a 100% in transparency and accountability. Learn more at

JPMorgan Chase
JPMorgan Chase has supported veterans since before World War I. Established in 2011, JPMorgan Chase’s Military & Veterans Affairs provides programs and initiatives that are aimed at positioning military members, veterans and their families for long-term success. Since 2011, the firm has hired more than 18,000 veterans; facilitated more than 900,000 veteran and military spouse hires through the Veteran Jobs Mission; awarded more than 1,080 mortgage-free homes to military families; and helped over 73,000 participants enroll in Onward to Opportunity, a free career training program of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families, which was co-founded and is supported by JPMorgan Chase and Syracuse University. Learn more at

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SOURCE Building Homes for Heroes

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