LISLE, Ill. — Richard Petty normally hands over the keys to a race car to driver Aric Almirola.
This week, he handed over the keys to a mortgage free home to an unsuspecting military family.
The NASCAR Hall of Famer partnered with Eckrich to give United States Marine Corps veteran James Wallace and his family the keys to a house located in Bolingbrook.
"I think they were really surprised to see all of us in front of this house," said Petty. "But that was nothing compared to their shock when we handed over the keys and told them that this was their new home. I've been a part of giving away a lot of things in my lifetime, but I don't remember giving away a house. That's a pretty big deal for anyone.
"It just makes it more special because it's a military family who are really worthy of this gift. They are a family who has sacrificed while their loved one served our country. Eckrich and Operation Homefront have been really great in honoring our military families like this all year and it's a really cool deal that they topped it off by giving away a house."
Wallace, a corporal in the Marine Corps, served twice in Afghanistan and was stunned by his new home.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. I keep thinking this isn't real," he said. "Being in the military, you move around, you rent houses, you get deployed. To now have a home of our own, a place where we can settle into and call our own, this means so much to me and my family. We are going to be able to make many, many memories here."
Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, has been working with Operation Homefront to support and thank military men and women and their families all year. It's all been a part of their Operation Inspiration campaign to honor the heroes behind our heroes and has included several events with Richard Petty Motorsports, a $250,000 donation to Operation Homefront and even a TV special hosted by Al Roker.