Iraq war veteran gets keys to mortgage-free home in Mount Pleasant

Daniel Branham, an Army veteran, holds up a large key before looking through his new mortgage-free home donated by Wells Fargo and the Military Warriors Support Foundation in Mount Pleasant for the first time Thursday.

Iraq war veteran Daniel Branham splashed a broad smile as he opened the door for the first time Thursday on his new mortgage-free home next to a lagoon in Mount Pleasant.

“It’s amazing,” the Charleston native said of the 1,216-square-foot Waterford condominium. “I don’t know what to think. I don’t really know what to say.”

Branham, 32, and his fiancee, Lillian Capobianco, and their dog, Blue, now live in West End, N.C., near Pinehurst, but he has always wanted to live on the coast to explore a side tour-fishing business to go along with his resume writing career.

Born in the Lowcountry but moved about because of his father’s military service, Branham, a graduate of Camden High School who studied two years at Greenville Technical College, left the Army in 2009 after nearly four years. He sustained injuries in Iraq, but nothing life-threatening or debilitating.

He heard about the Military Warriors Support Foundation, which helps find homes for honorably discharged, combat-wounded veterans, and applied. Branham didn’t expect to land a new home.

“It was more of a half-court shot,” he said of the application.

Branham learned of the new home on NBC’s “Today” show in May when musician and local resident Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish surprised him with the announcement.

The foreclosed property, valued at $185,000, according to Ric Biggers of Biggers Real Estate, which handled the transaction, was provided by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage with the help of the foundation, which has helped veterans find more than 650 homes since 2009.

“It’s a rewarding opportunity to give back to the brave men and women who have served our country,” said Ellen Frazier of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage’s Charleston office.

Sandy Ignaszewski of the Military Warriors Support Foundation said the organization is proud to put veterans in new homes without a mortgage to pay. Branham will be responsible for insurance, taxes, regime fees and upkeep of the property. He also must go through a three-year mentoring program offered through the group to keep his finances in order.

“He is responsible for everything but a mortgage,” Ignaszewski said.

Walking through the two-story condominium on Sandlake Drive, he and his fiancee stared at the first-floor wood floors, wood-burning fireplace and waterfront views, interjecting astonishment along the way.

“This is one amazing place, guys,” Branham said. “I couldn’t have designed it better myself.

He plans to move in by the end of the month.

“It’s an incredible dream come true,” he said, as he walked around the duck pond behind his new home.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.