PACE, Fla. (WKRG) – A military family returned home Thursday night to a special holiday surprise in Santa Rosa County.
Rob Ballard, who’s active duty in the U.S. Navy, was welcomed by volunteers from Florida Power and Light.
“I felt very honored,” said Ballard.
Ballard’s family is one of eight in Florida this year to have their home decorated with energy efficient lights for the holidays.
“Finding a way to do something special for a family during the holidays, especially a family that’s faced some obstacles, it was a no-brainer to do something special for them,” said FPL Spokesperson Sarah Gatewood.
Ballard has served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy including 10 years overseas in the Middle East and South Korea. He is wheelchair bound after his helicopter crashed last year during a training exercise in East Milton. His quick actions saved a student onboard and himself.
“It’s been a transition for my family,” said Ballard. “There’s been some bumps in the road but this has been a great day. Not every day is a great day but today has been a fantastic day.”
His wife Lindsay knew what was going on all afternoon as FPL volunteers got everything ready. She and their two kids were happy to see all the lights as the sun set.
“This is so wonderful,” said Lindsay. “I could not have decorated my house to this extent this year or in the future so I really do appreciate it.”
Joy Barnes nominated this family. She is the director of the Pensacola Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. They worked with the Ballard family to help them financially after the crash.
“It did bring tears to my eyes and the kids faces were great,” said Barnes. “And when he came out of the vehicle, to know this can bring a little bit of joy to their lives in this special time of year.”
Rob said he is thankful for his family especially his wife who’s helped him get through a tough year.
“She’s been my advocate, my caregiver, my wife and a fantastic mother so I can’t thank her enough,” said Rob.
This marks the 15th year of FPL’s holiday program which gives back to local heroes for their service to the community.