Disabled veteran to get keys to Pasco home June 24 at Kennnewick event

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldJune 23, 2014 

Home Charles Aikala

Retired Army Sgt. Charles Aikala and his family arrives in Columbia Park Tuesday for a ceremony to receive a Pasco home through a program sponsored by Fairway Independent Mortgage.

MATT GADE — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

A disabled veteran will be given keys to a Pasco home June 24 at a ceremony in Kennewick featuring a retired general and a Medal of Honor recipient.

Retired Army Sgt. Charles Aikala, who suffered multiple injuries related to a blast with intensive firefighting while serving in Iraq, was chosen by Fairway Independent Mortgage to receive the Pasco home.

Aikala served in the Army from 2006-11 and received multiple awards and commendations from his service, including a Purple Heart, a combat infantryman badge and an Iraq Campaign Medal with a campaign star.

Fairway Independent Mortgage's Tri-City office is organizing the event at the Regional Veterans Memorial in Columbia Park in Kennewick along with the Military Warriors Support Foundation, a nonprofit providing mortgage-free homes to veterans returning from overseas.

Retired Lt. Gen. Leroy Sisco, founder of the support group, and retired Army Ranger Sean Parnell, now an author, will be on hand. A Medal of Honor recipient is also scheduled to appear, but Fairway branch manager Gregg Van Steenkist said his identity is being kept secret for now for security reasons.

Big banks donate the foreclosed homes to the nonprofit, Van Steenkist said. Fairway is paying $25,000 toward appliances and other upgrades to the home, as well as three years of financial counseling for the veteran.

Fairway has donated 20 homes in the past two years, but this will be the first in the Tri-Cities, he said.

The day will start with a "boot camp" designed to help real estate agents work with veterans. That event is scheduled from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco. Van Steenkist said the disabled veteran will be taken to Columbia Park in a 1938 limousine for the public ceremony, which is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

Veterans on motorcycles and law enforcement officers are expected to escort the veteran, he said. They are hoping veterans will line the entrance to the park from Highway 240.

"We've been trying to get the word out to the veteran community," Van Steenkist said.

Kennewick Mayor Steve Young and Police Chief Ken Hohenberg are also scheduled to be at the event.

"I wanted to kind of turn this into a community event," Van Steenkist said.

Young wants to attend the event to show appreciation for veterans who leave their families behind to defend the country for little pay, he said.

"This country owes them a great deal," he said. "We should do anything we can do to help veterans who have helped this country."

For more information, call 509-783-6280.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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