During Women’s History Month each March, CalVet Connect tells the stories of some exceptional women veterans who live in the Golden State.
This year, CalVet’s Home Loans program turns 100 years old, giving us opportunities to write about our veteran clients as well.
Eboni Strader represents both. She’s a disabled U.S. Army veteran and single mom looking for a better life for her family, and found it when she recently used CalVet financing to purchase a home in Southern California’s Coachella Valley. A happy ending? Consider it more like a new beginning.
Strader’s story mirrors that of numerous women veterans. She endured sexual assault while in the military, and the trauma is indelible. Married twice, divorced twice, and once homeless while raising her two younger children, Strader remains positive, resilient, and determined – refusing to quit in her quest for peace.
She was born in Panama to American parents who both served in the Air Force. They returned to the states when she was three years old.
“We moved around a lot,” she said. “Texas, then California – Apple Valley and Victorville.”
Her parents divorced and her mom remarried, taking Strader and her younger sister and brother to Acworth, Georgia, in time for her senior year of high school.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life when I graduated,” Strader said. She followed her parents into the military though – into the Army, not the Air Force. After basic training in Missouri, she was assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington, as a motor transport operator.
“I was in for 2-½ years,” she said. “I was just being a patriot. It excited me.”
Then, the assault happened.
“There was no prosecution,” she said. “It was covered up. The stain and shame was on me. I was told to deal with it or get out. They made up that I had a personality disorder. I got out.”
She married a soldier who remained in the Army. They had a son; her husband had duty stations in Fort Hood, Texas, and in Hawaii. Then he deployed overseas. “Two tours in Korea broke up our marriage,” Strader said. “I was single for a long time.”
She eventually remarried, had a daughter, and then another son. That marriage came apart as well.
“Based on the trauma (from the sexual assault in the Army), I guess I attracted abusive partners,” Strader said. “I contemplated suicide. Then I made a bold decision. A huge dramatic change.”
She packed the two kids (her eldest son was a young adult by then) and flew to California to start anew.
“I had $1,000 in the bank, no job, no place to stay,” she said. “A family member offered us (a place to stay), but it didn’t work out. Friends from high school allowed us to stay for a couple of months.”
A disabled veteran and now homeless, Strader went to the California Employment Development Department in Sacramento, where she met John Plane, a Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist.
“That is when things started to turn around for me,” Strader said. “He said, ‘You’re a veteran. Here’s who I want you to call.’”
He connected her with a veterans resource center in South Sacramento. He sent her to the federal Veterans Affairs office at Mather to get her medical identification card. She received a housing voucher and got counseling.
“I was tired of the cycle of abuse and trauma,” Strader said. “I slowly started rebuilding my life.”
She found an apartment in Sacramento, completed her therapy. She started college classes. She won a car in a contest and was featured on local TV. She also began a two-year internship with CalVet through the VA work study program..
“They welcomed me with open arms,” Strader said.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and with it went some of the progress she’d made. The landlord began evicting tenants. She considered moving to Alabama, to join her eldest son.
Instead, she decided to stay. Because of her permanent disability income, which is guaranteed and not taxed, Strader received pre-approval for a CalVet loan for a home in Palmdale. That deal fell through. She tried again, scouting online real estate sites for places within the state that she could afford. One property was so far north that her dad joked, “If you want to see Bigfoot …” A second was in Bakersfield, where she did not want to live. The third was in Thermal in Riverside County, about 10 miles north of the Salton Sea. The asking price on a three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot home? $130,000.
“It’s 30 minutes from Coachella, not far from Indio, and two hours from Los Angeles and San Diego,” Strader said. “It has a low crime rate, houses I could afford, and I thought, ‘I can do that!’”
Last November, she found one in her pre-approved loan price range, called a real estate agent there, and told her to “get over there right away!” The agent seemed skeptical, but went and quickly called Strader back.
“Eboni, this is it!” the agent said. “We put an offer in and they accepted it,” Strader said.
CalVet loan originator Eric Myrdal found a program that enabled her to buy the home with no down payment, enabling her to save her money for moving and other expenses. The loan went through and she moved into the home in January.
“We see lots of applicants like Eboni,” Myrdal said. “It’s a win-win. She’d be paying a comparable amount in rent, and she’s building equity now. We do well with these (mortgages). We’ll do them when we deem someone can succeed. She is such a delightful, patient, and positive person.”
“As a single mother and a disabled veteran this was something I didn’t know was possible,” Strader said. “He made it happen.”
Life in the Coachella Valley sun agrees with her. Her daughter Samarii, 11, and son Isaiah, 7, are settling in.
“I’m experiencing freedom for the first time in my life,” Strader said. Peace, too.
She’s a woman veteran who is succeeding in rebuilding her life. She’s now a CalVet Home Loan client. Two stories rolled into one.
A happy ending? Consider it a new beginning.
For nearly 100 years CalVet Home Loans has helped veterans build, rebuild, and own homes, and it will continue to do so for well into the future. For more information on obtaining a CalVet home loan, CLICK HERE or call us directly during regular business hours at 866-653-2510. We are happy to help.