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The Ellenbeck Family

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Willis, TX

Project Status

In Progress

U.S. Army Sgt. Joanna Ellenbeck

Growing up in a family with a long history of military service, U.S. Army Sgt. Joanna Ellenbeck always knew she was destined to serve her country. Ellenbeck’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father all served in the armed forces, a lineage that stretches back to World War II.

Ellenbeck enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 2, 2002, shortly after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. She served 8 eight years and six months, including three combat deployments: one to Afghanistan and two to Iraq. Serving with the 25th Infantry Division, Ellenbeck worked as an avionics mechanic throughout her military career, repairing Black Hawks, Chinooks and Kiowa 58 helicopters.

During her three deployments, Ellenbeck began to understand the harsh realities of war. During her first deployment in 2004, Ellenbeck was assigned to complete a two-week guard detail because the unit was low on troops. During this time, a suspicious truck approached the perimeter, and Ellenbeck and a fellow service member investigated. They discovered a wounded man hidden in the bed of the truck, suffering from the effects of a bomb detonation. Ellenbeck began to render first aid, during which the man repeatedly struck her. Later interrogations revealed the man was a terrorist sent to detonate a bomb and kill American troops.

Ellenbeck carries visible and invisible scars from her service. She suffered a debilitating back injury during her 2004 deployment. Additionally, she suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, tinnitus, a sciatic nerve disorder, sensory deficits in both lower legs and knee pain. Ellenbeck’s doctors believe her service-related injuries will require her to use a wheelchair in the future.

For her service, Ellenbeck has been awarded multiple awards and recognition. These include an Iraq Campaign medal with five stars, four Army Commendation Medals, two Meritorious Unit Commendations and two Army Good Conduct Medals, among others. She was honorably discharged in 2010. 

Currently living in Arizona, Ellenbeck plans to move to Houston to be closer to family and friends and provide her young daughter with the medical, therapeutic and educational support she needs. Ellenbeck’s daughter, who was born blind and has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair. In their free time, Ellenbeck and her daughter enjoy horseback riding.

Operation Finally Home is proud to partner with Century Communities, The Howard Hughes Corporation, Greater Houston Builders Association and sponsors Houston Texans and USAA in providing U.S. Army Sgt. Joanna Ellenbeck and her daughter with a mortgage-free home in The Woodlands Hills in Willis, Texas.

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