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On the field at the Houston Texans game on Dec. 18 at NRG Stadium, U.S. Army Sgt. Joanna Ellenbeck and her family were basking in the limelight as the Texans and USAA Salute to Service Moment honoree of the game. In an unexpected twist, they were ecstatically surprised with the shocking announcement that she had been awarded a custom-built, mortgage-free home built by Century Communities on a homesite donated by The Howard Hughes Corporation in The Woodlands Hills. The exciting surprise was made possible on behalf of Operation Finally Home, Houston Texans and USAA.

Ellenbeck always knew she was destined to serve her country. She grew up in a family with a long history of military service. Her great-grandfather, grandfather and father all served in the armed forces.

Ellenbeck enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. She served over eight years which included a combat deployment to Afghanistan and two to Iraq. Ellenbeck worked as an avionics mechanic throughout her military career, serving with the 25th Infantry Division.

U.S. Army Sgt. Joanna Ellenbeck and Family Surprised with Mortgage-Free Home During Houston Texans Game

During her three deployments, Ellenbeck endured the harsh realities of war and now carries visible and invisible scars from her service. She suffered a debilitating back injury and also suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, tinnitus, a sciatic nerve disorder, sensory deficits in both lower legs and knee pain. Her doctors predict her injuries will eventually require the use of a wheelchair.

Ellenbeck has been awarded multiple awards and recognition for her service. These include an Iraq Campaign medal with five stars, four Army Commendation Medals, two Meritorious Unit Commendations and two Army Good Conduct Medals, a National Defense Service Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, among others. In 2010, she was honorably discharged.

Currently, Ellenbeck lives in Arizona and has been planning to move to Houston to be closer to family and friends as she provides medical, therapeutic and educational support to her young daughter, who was born blind, has cerebral palsy, and uses a wheelchair.

The Howard Hughes Corporation is excited to welcome U.S. Army Sgt. Joanna Ellenbeck and her daughter to The Woodlands Hills. A groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of the home will be held this Spring. Welcome neighbor, and thank you for your service!