Retired Marine Gets $70,000 Homecoming Surprise

PHOTO: The home of Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jacinto Bernardo
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When Sgt. Jacinto Bernardo came back to the United States from Okinawa after serving as a Marine for 21 years, all he wanted was an In-N-Out burger. He was already shocked when his friend showed up in a limo at the airport. But when the limo stopped in front of his house, he walked out, and started sobbing.

He saw that his once-humble house in Suisun City, Calif., had gotten a $70,000 face lift.

The kitchen now has sparkling quartz countertops. The front yard that was filled with dirt now has a fresh lawn. The house also got new floors and carpets.

Jeremy Epperson, a friend who has known Bernardo for 21 years, came up with the idea.

“I needed to do something for him,” Epperson told ABC News today. “This couldn’t have happened without the support from many wonderful contractors and volunteers.”

Epperson said many donors locally and nationwide contributed to the project. The total amount of man-hours and donations reached over $70,000.

With a little help from many friends, the house had a complete makeover inside and out in 10 days.

“Twenty-one years in the Marine Corps, you don’t deserve to come back to a house where you have to spend a lot of your savings and time fixing it up,” Epperson said.

Epperson went to the same boot camp and school with Bernardo 21 years ago. They were stationed together in several cities in the United States and Okinawa, Japan.

“Those guys that didn’t make it back,” Bernardo sobbed in front of the camera of ABC affiliate KGO yesterday during the big reveal. “They deserve this, not me.”

Epperson said keeping a secret from his close friend was not easy.

“I had to block him from Facebook so he doesn’t know what I’m up to,” Epperson said.

Bernardo and his wife, Julie, bought the house back in January.

“We chose it [the house] because it was the only thing we can afford,” Julie Bernardo told KGO.

Bernardo could not be reached by ABC News for comment. Epperson said Bernardo still doesn’t have a cellphone, and no land line has been installed in the house yet.

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