While there are some military service members who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, there are others who survive but whose lives are forever changed by injury.
Such stories as these prove that these warriors’ spirits are still going strong long after leaving the battlefield. This was the case for retired US Army Sgt. Stefan LeRoy.
Deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, LeRoy was just 21 when he lost both of his legs; while he was carrying an injured soldier, an improvised explosive device detonated, taking his legs in an instant. One was severed above the knee, and one below.
After returning home and recovering from the life-changing injury—learning how to walk using prosthetics—LeRoy refused to be brought down by his plight. Instead, he chose to keep active, which gave him something to live for.
“It was great to have an outlet because I easily could’ve just sat around and drank and felt sorry for myself,” the former soldier told The Palm Beach Post. “But instead I went to adaptive sports.”
LeRoy participated in the Boston Marathon, which he ran four times and handcycled twice; and he twice took part in the Invictus Games, an international sporting competition for wounded ex-military.
The rehabilitated soldier has come a long way since his days of deployment. Still under the age of 30, LeRoy has many years ahead. He has since met the woman who became his wife, Katie Smith; they got married in 2014; they expected their first child in May.
Yet, it was hardly suitable for LeRoy to be living in their apartment while confined to a wheelchair, maneuvering in their small room with furniture and down narrow hallways where he would often bump into walls accidentally.
It was this struggle to reclaim his independence in daily life that led LeRoy to the Gary Sinise Foundation. The well-known actor who played the role of Lieutenant Dan has long been a supporter of military veterans. The foundation’s Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (RISE) program selected LeRoy and his family to be the recipients of a brand-new smart home.
Homes that featured cutting-edge adaptive living amenities down to the last detail were built, fully paid for, and given by the foundation to military veterans who were severely injured and their families. The goal was simple: to give them a higher quality of life.
The injured ex-soldier has been courageous enough.
“I can be myself inside the home and when I go outside I’ll adapt to the rest of the world,” LeRoy told The Palm Beach Post.
Currently, the LeRoys’ three-bedroom smart home is being built near the community of Abacoa in Jupiter, Florida. The new parents think it’s a great place to raise a family. They are hoping to move in come autumn.
Among other things, the home will feature wide hallways that are wheelchair-friendly, a special transferring bench in the shower, as well as customized technology for accessing contents in the kitchen cabinets.
The best news of all: it will all be mortgage-free for the family.
That leaves plenty of freedom for LeRoy to focus on the things that matter most.
“To be present and participate in raising my daughter, I think that’s the biggest part,” LeRoy said.
But that wasn’t the first smart home given away by the patriotic actor…
Gary Sinise Gives a Smart Home to Ex-Green Beret Who Lost Both Legs in Afghanistan
A Tucson native and former Green Beret who lost both his legs in Afghanistan knows what it’s like to get back on his feet after a fall. What this ex-soldier might not have expected after returning home, though, was an incredible helping hand from a famous celebrity.
Sergeant 1st Class Caleb Brewer enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 2005 and joined the Green Berets in 2012. During a deployment to Afghanistan in 2015, he was severely injured in combat, and both of his legs were severed. He suffered from infections, blood clots, and a traumatic brain injury. Yet, despite all his injuries, the soldier survived. Brewer retired in 2016.
The former soldier, now 31, has returned to Tucson, where he faced all of the daunting challenges of living without his legs. Meanwhile, a well-known supporter of military families, actor Gary Sinise, took notice and saw to it that adequate housing would not be a concern for Brewer.
The Hollywood star, famous for his character Lt. Dan of “Forest Gump,” has been a supporter for war vets since the 70s. After the September 11th attacks in New York, his commitment increased; he founded the Gary Sinise Foundation to support military families in 2011.
After Sinise learned about Brewer’s situation, the foundation contacted him to lend a helping hand. They encouraged him to apply to the RISE (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program, whose aim is to build specially adapted smart homes, as well as adapted vehicles, for wounded vets.
Before Brewer and his family knew it, they had been approved for a new smart home in Tucson, fully outfitted with special modifications to assist Brewer in coping with his disability. The home was completed on Feb. 6, 2019.
The adapted home featured smartphone-controlled functions: whether it be checking to see who’s at the door, adjusting the volume of the stereo, or opening the blinds, a simple handheld device would be all it took. Also installed were wheelchair-friendly tilted mirrors and pocket doors.
“It’s incredibly overwhelming in a good way,” said Brewer. “It doesn’t feel real. I never would’ve expected it in a million years.” Brewer, his wife, Ashley, and their two daughters Emily and Evelyn would face fewer worries thanks to the Sinise Foundation’s firm commitment.
Brewer has made progress by leaps and bounds in his rehabilitation efforts. He learned how to walk using prosthetics four months after his injury. Today, he has a specialized workout room to assist in his physical therapy; he trains for his own health, and he helps other disabled men and women rebuild their bodies and their confidence.
The foundation stated in a press release: “A specially adapted smart home will greatly increase his ability to perform necessary daily functions.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation has also initiated other projects to help military vets and their families. Recently, the Foundation’s Relief and Resiliency program was in the media. Their program called the Snowball Express helps military families who have lost loved ones by providing therapeutic retreats to exciting places for kids and surviving parents. Recently, Sinise brought over 1,000 children of fallen soldiers to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Author: Michael Wing
Source: The Epoch Times: Gary Sinise Gives US Army Vet a Free Smart Home After Losing Both Legs in Afghanistan