(CBS) — A two-tour veteran of the war in Afghistan, his wife and five-year-old son received the gift of a lifetime Thursday: a free home.

And the King of NASCAR, legendary driver and car owner Richard Petty, handed them the keys.

WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Robert reports.

It’s been a difficult year for James Wallace and his wife, Megan, and their son, Caleb.  Wallace injured his shoulder in Afghanistan and was flown home the day that his older brother, who also is a Marine, drove over an improvised explosive device, leaving him seriously injured. His father has battled cancer.

“I love the military and every day I dreaded getting out of there,” Wallace says.

Wallace said that the free home should help him adjust to civilian life. He is working as a field representative for a firm that installs and maintains security cameras and security systems for homes and businesses.

His injured brother told him to apply for the free home, which spokesman Victor Zikas said is the 130th of 300 homes that Operation Homefront is giving away in conjunction with mortgage lenders.  While there is no mortgage, he said the Wallaces will have to pay everyday bills.

As a result, Zikas said, they also will get two years of free financial counseling through Wells Fargo Bank.

The Wallaces did not know until they arrived that they had been awarded the home. They were told they were going to a final interview, but Wallace and his wife figured out quickly what was happening when they spotted Petty with one of his #43 Fords in the driveway.

Caleb was awed, both by the home and by the race car.  Petty stood him up in the driver’s seat as they mugged together for pictures.

Petty said he is pleased to be the “front man” for such a generous reward program.

��These families have sacrificed a lot,” he says.