Building Homes for Heroes, a national nonprofit organization that builds and modifies homes to gift mortgage-free to wounded veterans and their families, hosted a dinner for U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Melchizedek “Kato” Martinez and Air Force Capt. Nathan Nelson as they met for the first time July 12 at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin.

The veterans are connected through their service in the Air Force and their experiences with Building Homes for Heroes. Last December, Lt. Col. Martinez and his family were gifted a mortgage-free home in San Antonio. Their family suffered a tremendous tragedy as they were at the Brussels Airport in March 2016. As a result of the terrorist attack, Lt. Col. Martinez’s wife, Gail, died while trying to protect their four children.

While stationed in Afghanistan in 2013, Capt. Nelson was nearly killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his forward operating base. This blast caused him to suffer injuries, including a severe spinal cord injury, collapsed lungs and significant blood loss. Nelson, his wife Jennifer, and their 3-year-old daughter will reside in Santa Rosa Beach where the organization is building a house to meet their needs.

Every veteran helped by Building Homes for Heroes becomes part of an extended family. They support each other before, during and after their homes are gifted to them as the organization strives to foster this special community.