Veteran Makes Home in Madison Heights Thanks to Operation Homefront

Veteran Makes Home in Madison Heights Thanks to Operation Homefront

(Drew Saunders, Feb. 26, 2020)

Jessica Tutt’s new Madison Heights home is a single story house on an anonymous suburban street, but it’s a special one to her. The sound of her two children playing filled the house with background noise, as they ran from the front to the back, Sunday afternoon, their voices echoing on the halls of the home of their military veteran mother.

“The community has been warm, open-hearted and welcoming to me and my family,” Tutt told the Oakland County Times, while sitting in her new kitchen. “My daughter has never had more of a welcoming school.”

Tutt is an Army veteran and a Navy veteran, who was surprised to learn last summer that she qualified for her new home through Operation Homefront. She found out she qualified on June Third – her daughter’s birthday.

Tutt asked to thank several people in addition to Operation Homefront, including Chase bank, who helped finance the project. She also thanked Home Depot, who helped provide the new appliances; as well as Mayor Pro Tem Roslyn Grafstein.

“Projects like this are good for the city. We want our residents to take pride in their homes and be a part of our community. Jessica has already met her neighbors and Brad Sassak, the principal at Hiller where her daughter goes to school, also came to the key presentation and had nothing but good things to say about the family. Less than a week after moving in, Jessica reached out to me about joining one of our Boards of Commissions. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and we are excited to welcome her home,” Mayor Pro Tem Roslyn Grafstein said in an interview via email.

Operation Homefront is a non-profit that provides housing for veterans. According to their website, they pay for the case management, home repairs and financial counseling. Recipients like Tutt cover property taxes, the home warranty, home maintenance, $100 a month for closing cost, and any applicable renter’s insurance or homeowner association fees.

Some of the houses are built from scratch; or, like in Tutt’s case, an old house is refurbished. This creates a win-win scenario, where the city turns a would be derelict property into a usable and occupied home, and veterans’ families like the Tutt’s get a new community to live in.

“The city was contacted that Operation Homefront would be presenting a veteran with a house in Madison Heights and asked if the Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem would be available to attend the key presentation ceremony. I was quite happy to represent the city in welcoming a veteran to Madison Heights,” Grafstein said.

Tutt spent six years in the army and five years in the navy, serving one tour in Iraq and five tours in Afghanistan. She worked with aircraft in the navy. After returning home to Michigan from the navy at the height of the housing crisis in 2008, she found that she was overqualified for jobs at the airport, so she joined the navy, working in military communications.

Tutt retired from the military in 2014, on medical grounds, after 11 years of service. Tutt told the Oakland County Times she sustained half a dozen separate concussions from IED (Improvised Explosive Devices; basically, a homemade bomb) explosions, and one from a mortar blast that landed about a hundred yards from Tutt.

Describing the mortar attack, Tutt said “It knocked me off my feet and I couldn’t remember anything. So they med-evacted me out of the country so I could get treatment.”

Tutt survived, but said she is dealing with PTSD, which started in 2007 when she came back from the war, but friends of hers didn’t. Despite this, Tutt said she felt lucky.  She said of combat, “I actually expected worse.”

Military life is behind her now. Tutt is currently in dental hygiene program from Macomb Community College and is hoping to further her education at the University of Detroit.

And as she went from one room to another, puttering around and checking on her two year old and nine year old, she couldn’t stop talking about how lucky she felt to be part of such a welcoming and friendly community.

“I couldn’t ask for a better home,” Tutt said.

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