STAFFORD – It’s been a long journey for retired Marine Cpl. Garrett Jones – one that began in 2007 on the hot and dusty battlefields of Iraq where he lost his left leg after stepping on an improvised explosive device.
Nearly 10 years later, Jones and his family stood in front of their brand new smart house Thursday morning choking back tears during a dedication ceremony that gave the community the opportunity to welcome them to their new home in Stafford County.
The family celebrated their new beginning thanks to the generosity of the Gary Sinise Foundation and its partners. During the ceremony, Jones received the keys – or, in this case, iPad – that will give the disabled veteran more independence and freedom.
Bob Pence, a board member for the foundation, read a letter from Sinise during the ceremony describing the home as a small symbol of America’s gratitude for Jones’s service and sacrifice.
“While we can never truly repay the debt we owe Garrett, we can strive to show him and his brothers and sisters in arms that we do not forget or take their service for granted, expressing our appreciation and gratitude whenever and wherever possible,” Sinise wrote.
“For all they have done and have given, they ask so little in return. Knowing they are honored and their sacrifice is appreciated can make a world of difference.”
Jones enlisted in the in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. During his deployment to Iraq, an IED detonated under him, which led to severe injuries and the amputation of his left leg. He endured an arduous recovery process, including undergoing 20 surgeries in a month.
Despite his pain and injuries, he deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence analyst less than a year later. His redeployment shattered norms, since common practice at the time was for wounded warriors to retire.
“That deployment, as bloody as it was, was also a period of healing for me,” Jones said. “I learned so much about myself and learned you really can overcome any obstacle, no matter how challenging.”
After returning home and retiring from the military, Jones started a family and later uprooted their life in Oregon to travel 3,000 miles across the country to Virginia. Jones embarked on several attempts to build his own home, but when his efforts fell through, he said the Gary Sinise Foundation miraculously swooped in and took over everything.
Although the foundation led the project, they credit its success to partnerships. Dozens of organizations added to the overall beauty and efficiency of the home.
The finished product exceeded the Jones family’s expectations.
“I can’t believe we are going to call this place our home,” Jones said. “I think it may feel like a luxury vacation home for a while before I can truly process that this is our home.”
For the past nine and a half years, being at home has been a constant battle for Jones, and seemingly simple tasks, such as making a cup of coffee or climbing into the bathtub, posed a challenge.
The smart home will allow Jones to reclaim his independence and improve his quality of life. He will no longer have to chase his children up and down stairs on crutches or rely on his wife, Allison, to grab him a snack or help him with other routine activities.
In particular, the smart home technology will help give him more control. At the touch of a button on an iPad, he will be able to turn on a light or adjust the thermostat without getting out of his wheelchair or climbing the stairs.
From the iPad, he also will be able to control security cameras that enable him to monitor his three children – Hudson, 5, Halle, 3, and Kate, 1 – more easily.
The new house will allow him to achieve his professional goals by giving him time for rest and recovery.
“Christmas came a few weeks late for the Jones family,” Jones said.