SUISUN CITY, Calif. - After more than two decades serving his country in the U.S. Marine Corps, a North Bay man stationed in Japan just wanted to get home. But what he saw on Tuesday when he arrived at the fixer-upper he purchased in January brought him to tears.
KTVU crews took a walk through of the Suisun City home, just minutes before the newly retired Marine arrived.
"He's a pretty emotional guy, so he's... I imagine there will be a lot of tears," said his friend and fellow former marine, Jeremy Epperson.
And indeed, the tears came quickly when Jack Bernardo arrived, because he didn't recognize his home.
Epperson gave him a kiss and said, "We did it for you."
Through tears, Bernardo responded, "I don't deserve this."
After retiring from the Marine Corps last week, Bernardo and his family returned from Okinawa, Japan Tuesday afternoon.
"21 years I gave serving our country, and if I had 21 more years to give, I would. Because I love this country," said Bernardo.
The family bought the house knowing it needed a lot of work. Daughter, Jessica had her doubts.
"At first I was like are you sure you guys want this house," she said.
Bernardo asked his friend, Jeremy Epperson to keep an eye on the home until the family returned. But Epperson had different ideas.
"I didn't think it was right for a person who retired, given 21 years and 50 percent of their pay to come back and spend every cent that they saved on fixing up a home," he said.
So in just ten days, Epperson, the Jimmy Doolittle Center, and numerous contractors and volunteers painted, installed new floors, redid the kitchen, and landscaped the property.
Reporter John Sasaki said to Bernardo, "It looks like the country gave back to you a little bit here." "Yes," he responded. "That's why I'm not expecting it, because I don't really think I deserve it."
Suisun City's mayor, Pete Sanchez dropped by the home to present a proclamation to Bernardo and declare June 17th, 2014 as Master Sgt. Jack Bernardo Day.
Bernardo says others are more deserving, "Those guys that didn't make it in one piece, they deserve this, not me."
Bernardo had saved up a lot of money to fix up the house, which he no longer has to do. And that's good news because next year, he'll have not just one but two daughters attending Sacramento State University.