SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s all about heroes helping heroes.
The man behind the beloved character “Lieutenant Dan” in the film classic ‘Forrest Gump,’ actor Gary Sinise, helps our nation’s most severely wounded veterans and first responders in a big way.
The latest is an adapted home for a hero and purple heart recipient in Sevierville who nearly died in service of our country.
It’s a special dedication with military welcome-home honors for a true American hero who couldn’t believe his eyes when he entered the double doors to his spacious new home.
“Holy cow,” were the first words from Sgt. Casey Jones (ret.) as he looked around his adapted SMART home built just for him and his wife, Shannon.
“I don’t have to pop a wheelie to get over a curb or nothing like that,” Sgt. Jones told us with a smile. “Everything is extra wide.”
It’s a home worthy of a hero.
Sgt. Jones lost his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in May 2013.
“I remember everything going black, ” he told us, “and having the ringing in your ears. I remember sort of falling off to my side and the next thing I know, the dust sort of clears and I’m looking down at myself. I see both of my legs are gone.”
During his two year recovery at Walter Reed, Jones heard about homes like this.
“I don’t have to adapt myself to the home, the home is already adapted for me,” Jones said. “So everything is super easy, super convenient. It’s just life changing.”
From the kitchen to the bedroom to the bath and outdoors, no detail has been spared, with SMART technology at the center of it all, thanks to the Gary Sinise Foundation’s RISE program.
RISE stands for “Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment.” The foundation received Jones’ application, recognized his sacrifice, and got to work building from the ground up.
Jim Ravella is Vice President of Outreach for the foundation. “They’re all custom,” he says of the homes. “They’re 100 percent mortgage free, the veteran or first responder picks where they would like to live in the country, picks their lot, and we design the home specifically for that family’s needs.”
These challenging times meant a virtual celebration with just some of the giving people who made this home happen, including Gary Sinise.
“How do you like the house?” Sinise asked Sgt. Jones and his wife. “Oh it’s beautiful, oh my God it’s beautiful!” they said in unison.
Sinise told them, “that house has a lot of love in there. There’s a lot of Americans that contributed to the foundation to help, multiple in-kind sponsors who support our RISE program. They’re all sending you a message of love and appreciation.”
Leaving Sgt. Jones to simply say, “words can’t explain the gratitude I have for Gary, the Gary Sinise Foundation — it really is remarkable.”
If you’d like to make a contribution to help first responders or veterans like Sgt. Jones through this program: www.garysinisefoundation.org