A United States Marine from eastern North Carolina got the surprise of a lifetime for Veterans Day this year.
Yaheem Jones was in Colorado when he realized he won $1 million through his home state’s education lottery recently, according to ABC 7.
“I bought the tickets before I left for Denver and just threw them in my book bag,” he recalled. “I flew all the way to Denver with them and everything and I didn’t even know I was a winner until a couple of days later,” he recalled.
“I had the flight pass, my itinerary, my checked bag passes and I see the tickets,” Jones continued, adding that when he scratched them off, he could not believe what he saw.
On his flight back to North Carolina, the veteran kept the ticket close by so as not to misplace it.
“I didn’t take my hand out of my pocket,” he said. “Not one whole time!”
The former combat engineer who lives in Creswell bought the tickets that included a “Red Hot Riches” scratch-off for $10 at a supermarket in Washington County, according to 4 WWL.
“At first, I didn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke,” he said of the moment he realized what he won.
Jones, who now works as a property manager, claimed his prize at lottery headquarters in Raleigh on Tuesday, according to the NC Education Lottery’s website.
“He had the choice of taking the $1 million as an annuity of 20 payments of $50,000 a year or a lump sum of $600,000. He chose the lump sum and, after required state and federal tax withholdings, took home $424,503,” the site read.
The veteran said the money will “help a lot” and plans to deposit it into his savings.
“Red Hot Riches launched in May with four top prizes of $1 million. Jones won the last top prize so the lottery will begin steps to end the game,” the lottery’s site concluded.