When an SUV carrying Ed and Amy Hawk and their children pulled up in front of their new home in the 1400 block of Brentwood Drive on Monday morning, a crowd of about 50 people began cheering and waving flags.

U.S. Bank and Freedom Alliance handed the keys to the home to the family, mortgage free, as part of their programs to honor combat veterans with permanent homes.

They also awarded three other homes across the country to veterans to celebrate Veterans Day.

A flag on a pole in front of the house snapped in the breeze.

Small flags outlined the driveway.

Red, white and blue bunting outlined the roof and red, white and blue balloons hung on the porch.

A new welcome mat read, "Home Sweet Home."

When the family exited the vehicle, Ed Hawk, a 48-year-old retired master sergeant, said, "I can't put into words how honored we are. Owensboro is a great, great place."

His 22-year career as an Army Ranger included stops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Alaska and at Fort Campbell, where he spent 18 years.

Hawk said he and his family had been living in small house in Chapman, Kansas, saving their money to eventually buy a home somewhere in Kentucky.

Then, they heard about the U.S. Bank/Freedom Alliance program and applied for the house in Owensboro.

"It's absolutely beautiful," Amy Hawk said. "I'm floored and amazed."

She said the 1,890-square-foot house was "more than we're used to."

Amy Hawk said one of their six adult children will be moving to Owensboro soon.

The couple has fostered more than 150 children and adopted three of them, who are still in school and living with them.

Josh Miles, director of military programs for Freedom Alliance, told the crowd that "the support here has been among the best I've ever seen."

Tom Ed Booth, Owensboro market president for U.S. Bank, said "dozens and dozens of volunteers spent more than 300 hours" getting the three-bedroom, two-bath home, built in 1966, ready for the family.

Mayor Pro Tem Larry Maglinger read a proclamation welcoming the family to Owensboro and declaring that Monday was "Hawk Family Day" in the city.

Hawk, who grew up in Maine, enlisted in the U.S. Army when he was 18.

His first deployment was to Iraq in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

Hawk returned to Iraq in 2002.

He suffered shrapnel wounds from a grenade during that tour, he said.

"Fortunately, it wasn't life-threatening," he said.

Hawk retired in 2011 after 22 years of service.

U.S. Bank, Daviess County's second-largest private employer, says on its website that it donates bank-owned homes to "military service organizations, which in turn renovate them and donate them mortgage-free to wounded veterans and their families."

Freedom Alliance, which was created in 1990 by two Vietnam veterans, says on its website that it has awarded mortgage-free homes to wounded combat veterans in California, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Florida, New Mexico, Washington and now Kentucky.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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