Last December, Sara Wood received the surprise of a lifetime.
Recently widowed after her husband, Marine Staff Sgt. Scott Wood, died of battle injury complications, Sara attended the Texans' Dec. 18 home game against the Carolina Panthers, where she was expecting to be recognized at halftime.
What Sara wasn't expecting was an announcement that she and her five-year-old son, Landon, would be receiving a custom-built, mortgage-free house in Alvin, Texas, courtesy of the Houston Texans and Operation FINALLY HOME, an organization that builds houses for disabled veterans or their widowed families. At the time, Sara and Landon were sharing a single bedroom in her parents' home.
Tuesday morning, the Texans and Operation FINALLY HOME joined forces to hand Sara and Landon the keys to their brand new house, which came fully furnished and with a year's worth of free electricity compliments of Gallery Furniture and Reliant Energy.
Mother and son smiled, hugged, cried and reveled in the moment as a sense of normalcy was returned to their lives after the obstacles of the past year.
"I'm still in shock right now," Wood said. "This is amazing and wonderful and bittersweet and scary. It's a little bit of everything."
Landon, now six, was overcome with excitement when his very own room was revealed to him.
"As a mom, knowing that he's always going to have a place that's his is amazing," Wood said through tears of joy. "He's got his room upstairs; he's so excited. And to see him smile so much… he's so happy."
Texans center Chris Myers and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus were on hand for the unveiling of the house, both recognizing the magnitude of the moment for the Woods family.
"Their reaction, it's really awesome, and it's a blessed opportunity for them," Mercilus said. "We're appreciative to be a part of this. If everybody could do something like this for somebody, it'd be a better nation."
Myers, whose grandfathers both served in the military, says he would have gone down the same path had it not been for football. He has a special place in his heart for veterans and their families.
"I'm very honored to be a part of this," Myers said. "Sara and Landon are going to have a great home and kind of a fresh start. It's not going to fix a lot of the problems they've had to deal with the past year, but it's some way to kind of get going."
The Woods are self-proclaimed diehard Texans fans. Sara noted that if her husband were still alive, his first reaction would have been, "Dadgummit, I want to be down there meeting all those football players." She shared an anecdote about how Scott used to wear Battle Red under his uniform when he worked in security at the Superdome. He also was laid to rest in a No. 80 Andre Johnson Texans jersey underneath his military dress blues.
"Before he left on every deployment, he always said he'd always take care of us, and I know he is," Wood said, crying. "I hope he's proud of me, and I hope he's proud of everything that was done. I know that he'd love this."