JACKSONVILLE, Ala. — The next steps toward helping a wounded U.S. Marine become independent happened as organizers from various charities broke ground at the site of his future home.
Retired Sgt. Ben Tomlinson of Jacksonville served in the Marines in the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion in Camp Lejeune, N.C., and deployed twice to the Helmand Province, the center of the Taliban insurgency and opium trade in Afghanistan. He was shot in the back, leaving him paralyzed him from the chest down.
His home will be a "smart home," meaning nearly every facet of the house will be able to accommodate Tomlinson. The cabinets and counter tops raise and lower and the hallways are much wider to accommodate his wheelchair.
The air conditioning, heating and lighting also can be customized, and all of the adjustable functions can be controlled through an iPad or iPhone.
It also will have a full security system, complete with cameras and automated doors, all designed to give Tomlinson independence and the freedom to move around his own home.
The construction of the home is a joint project involving various charities. The Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation put on a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday and helped raise the funds with the help of the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Sinise's Lt. Dan Band put on a fundraising concert last May at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium.
Other sponsors included Veteran's United Foundation, AOD Credit Union, General Electric, Carpet One Floor and Home, Shubert Design, the Semper Fi Fund and Hope for the Warriors.
Tomlinson said he was grateful for the show of support from everyone who attended the groundbreaking, including the entire student body of Jacksonville High School.
"The entire community, you guys are the best," Tomlinson said. "I can't think of being from a better place, especially with the continued show of support."
Tomlinson also got to see a sketch of the outside of the house for the first time and was impressed. He worked with designers on the floor plan so the house would be tailored to his liking, but admitted he was kept a bit in the dark so the house would still be a bit of a surprise to him.
He said he couldn't wait to get into the home and was thankful that he would have a house to call his own. He acknowledged that is something many people work hard to achieve on their own, and he will be blessed to finally have.
"Like I always say, I feel spoiled by these guys," Tomlinson said. "It's kind of unbelievable."
As a future owner of a three-bedroom home, Tomlinson said one of the things he most looks forward to is being able to have company over. He hopes some of his friends from Recon will be able to make the trek down from Jacksonville, N.C., to see his new digs in Jacksonville.