- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (AP) - An injured Marine received an early present just before Christmas - a home for the holidays.

Marine Sgt. Bradley Walker, who was injured in Iraq in 2006 became the latest recipient of a new custom built home from national non-profit Homes For Our Troops.

For the third year in a row, the organization has built specially adapted homes mortgage-free for severely injured veterans across the nation between Veteran’s Day and Christmas.

Family, friends, veteran organizations, volunteers and business officials that helped donate items to the home all attended a key giving ceremony at Walker’s new residence in the Holly Oaks Subdivision of Dandridge on the Saturday before Christmas.

HFOT president ret. Maj. Gen. Tim McHale welcomed Walker “home for the holidays” and thanked everyone in attendance.

McHale said his organizations’ goal is to honor the sacrifices of service members who have been severely injured while defending the country.

“We don’t see this as charity. We see this as a moral obligation to the men and women who have gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They defended our freedom the least we can go is give them a form of freedom in return,” McHale said.

Before cutting the ribbon to enter his home, Walker was given an American flag to raise and switch with the flying flag of his military branch on the flagpole of his home, a tradition of the non-profit.

Walker was on his second Marine deployment when he lost both of his legs in an IED blast in Haqlaniyah, Iraq on Nov. 27, 2006.

A member of the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, Walker was driving a security vehicle returning from a mission when his vehicle triggered an IED along the Euphrates River.

Knocked unconscious by the blast and suffering the traumatic amputations of both of his legs, Walker received lifesaving aid from his squad; stabilizing him and preparing him for a medical evacuation by helicopter.

Walker would later be transferred back to the U.S. where he was hospitalized in Bethesda, Maryland and spent more than two years in rehabilitation at Walter Reed Hospital where he received prosthetic legs.

The new home is just the start for a lot of new beginnings as Walker was beside his fianceé Anna Lilly, during the entire ceremony. The couple plan to wed next year.

Walker, who is originally from Dandridge, has been living with his father in a home that isn’t very accessible to him when he is in his wheelchair.

In his father’s house, Walker can’t access some of the areas like the laundry room because he can’t get his wheelchair through the door.

Walker said the biggest benefit of the new home is its accessibility and how it will instantly improve his mobility.

The home has 155 special features, from wide hallways to powered doors to rollover cabinet features and a therapy tub, all to unlock the freedom and independence for Walker.

Walker said the home is a place where he can live without any added stressors providing needed features for independence.

“One thing that will make it so much easier is the access in the kitchen, everything is this house is made for someone in a wheelchair to be able to access any part, the large tub, shower everything,” he said.

Walker had found out about Home For Our Troops through fellow Marines, in particularly Kenny Lyons, of Virginia who received a home through the organization after going through rehabilitation with Walker.

Lyons was present for Walker’s home groundbreaking and the key ceremony.

Walker said the entire process to get the home took him two years, after going for an initial meeting to the organization’s headquarters in Massachusetts.

The home itself took a little over six months to build.

With the keys to his new home, which was complete with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, large closets, and extra spacious kitchen, dining and living areas, Walker was rendered almost speechless at the final result.

“It’s going to take a while for it to all soak in. I still feel like I’m dreaming and haven’t got out of bed yet,” he said.

“Homes For Our Troops is very important because their mission and goal to get homes for wounded service members. It’s great to be a part of the HFOT family. It’s all very surreal. Words can’t express everything I’m feeling right now,” Walker said.

___

Information from: Citizen Tribune, http://www.citizentribune.com

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